WBGO Radar

Ted Rosenthal: Rhapsody In Gershwin

cover of Ted Rosenthal Trio's album Rhapsody In Gershwin

In his book There Was A Fire: Jews, Music And The American Dream, author Ben Sidran paints a fascinating picture of the great American composers,  including  George Gershwin.

As Sidran writes, Gershwin saw little distinction between his popular songs and his concert work. In 1924 Gershwin got the opportunity to prove his point.

At twenty-five, he was asked by orchestra leader Paul Whiteman to "make a lady out of jazz."

Young George agreed, and in the midst of the "Jazz Age," the pianist, who had already had popular hits like "Swanee," delivered "Rhapsody In Blue," combining the sophistication of the classical concerto with the raw passion of jazz.

Ninety years later, our forward thinking players are still at it; feeling, redefining, rearranging and merging that sophistication with raw passion.

Enter pianist, composer and arranger Ted Rosenthal, himself an accomplished disciple of classical and jazz.

With Rhapsody In Gershwin, his new recording being released on May 13th, the pianist is joined by bassist Martin Wind and drummer Tim Horner for a look and listen inside one of our greatest American musical souls.

Right away the synergy of the trio gives us front row seats at Aeolian Hall with "Rhapsody In Blue," giving a new swinging sophistication to the lady and her many moods; from classical to jazz to Latin to ragtime, invigorating Gershwin's tale in such fashion that we don't miss the orchestra.

The trio then throws us a tomato... or is it tomahto, with "Let's Call The Whole Thing Off," originally introduced by Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers for the 1937 film Shall We Dance.

As Ted says, " I enjoy taking a standard and finding my own way to play it in a jazz trio context." Take note of the pianist's remarkable left-handed compliments.

Ted was winner of the second Thelonious Monk International Jazz Piano Competition in 1988. His Monkish intro to "Fascinating Rhythm" quickly has the trio at full tilt, twisting and turning, and for sure, a fascinating listen to bassist Wind's statement of the theme.

Rosenthal says in his album's liner notes that "I Loves You Porgy" and "Someone To Watch Over Me" both have a Bill Evansessence watching over them, with some new harmonies to freshen the approach.

In "Let's Call The Whole Thing Off," Ted says his intent was to convey the humor and wit of the lyric in musical ways.

The pace of "Strike Up The Band" would leave most bands at the station. These three  can't wait to get out of the gate. The musicality of this trifecta has this one  ready for a rubdown at the return.

"Love Walked In," with music by George and lyrics by older brother Ira Gershwin, was done originally for the 1938 film Goldwyn Follies. Over the years it's walked in on Ella Fitzgerald, Dinah Washington and Artie Shaw, among others. Ted describes this closer as a derangement, but using traditional structures to "blow". 

Ted Rosenthal says this recording was, "tricky, challenging and fun, striking the balance between the notes than Gershwin wrote and the new directions that we take it." It will give you a new view into Gershwin's world.

Traveling along with Ted Rosenthal, Martin Wind and Tim Horner makes it a musical journey to remember for quite some time. The Trio plays Dizzy's May 14th.

  - Gary Walker, WBGO music director

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