Keep it fresh. Keep it simple. But
have fun while you’re at it. That seems to be the approach the Ted
Rosenthal Trio took to Wonderland (Playscape Recordings, 2013).
This set of 11 songs capture the Christmas spirit and shakes it up for a
piano jazz audience.
The trio consists of Ted Rosenthal, piano; Noriko Ueda, bass; and Tim
Horner, drums. Rosenthal, 1988 winner of the Thelolnious Monk
International Jazz Piano Competition, has performed as a sideman with
many jazz greats, including Gerry Mulligan, Art Farmer and Phil Woods.
His Out of This World (2011) reached Number 1 on the jazz radio
“Winter Wonderland” is played with a toe-tapping, finger-snapping verve.
After the main melody, the trio goes on a delightful romp. It’s the
musical equivalent of playing in the snow.
“Dance of the Reed Flutes” has kind of second-gear, boogie woogie feel.
It’s certainly a different interpretation of the Tchaikovsky classic
from Nutcracker Suite. It’s oddly reminiscent of Duke
Ellington’s “Sugar Rum Cherry” (a bluesy interpretation of “Dance of the
Sugar Plum Fairy”).
The trio also takes on several more commonly covered holiday treats,
“The Christmas Song,” “Greensleeves,” “Sleigh Ride” and “Silent Night.”
The set closes with an original song, “Snowscape.”
“Holiday music is one of the great joys of the holiday season, and I
have enjoyed playing holiday songs over the years – many times, many
ways,” Rosenthal says.
Christmas albums can be trite. With so many of the same songs being
recorded by artists of all genres and new albums coming out every year,
it’s easy for a listener to get a sense of, “I’ve heard this before.”
Rosenthal avoids that trap by giving us fresh arrangements and plugging
in songs that you don’t get on every Christmas album, like “Angels We
Have Heard on High” and the aforementioned “Dance of the Reed Flutes.”
Wonderland is as its name implies: a musical land of wonder.