Born: 1959 Primary Instrument: Piano
Ted Rosenthal is one of the leading jazz pianists of his generation. The first-prize winner of the Thelonious Monk International Jazz Piano Competition in 1988, Ted has gone on to perform worldwide, both as a leader and as a sideman with many jazz greats, including Gerry Mulligan, Art Farmer, Phil Woods, Bob Brookmeyer, and Jon Faddis. Ted also has released eleven CDs as a leader, which include new treatments and derangements of great American standards, jazz tunes and classical themes, as well as his original compositions. Ted’s ability to communicate both the creative and analytical aspects of jazz translates from the bandstand to the educational arena: he holds faculty appointments at The Juilliard School, and Manhattan School of Music, and has also taught at Queens College, and The New School University.
Ted was born and raised in Great Neck, Long Island, a suburb of New York City. He began playing by ear at a young age, and started studying at 12 with Tony Aless, a sideman with Charlie Parker and Stan Getz. In high school, Ted studied briefly with Jaki Byard and Lennie Tristano, and he attended workshops with Billy Taylor, Woody Shaw and others.
Although jazz was Ted’s main passion, at the time there were limited opportunities to study jazz at the conservatory level. Since he also found satisfaction and joy in classical music, Ted decided to pursue classical piano studies at Manhattan School of Music. He received Bachelors and Masters Degrees in piano performance while continuing to pursue his love of jazz outside the classroom. After college, he continued his classical piano studies with Phillip Kawin while playing jazz in and around New York.
Winning the Monk Competition in 1988 launched Ted’s career as a solo artist, leading to the release of his first CD as a leader. New Tunes, New Traditions, featuring now-legendary personnel Ron Carter, Billy Higgins and Tom Harrell, interweaves music of Thelonious Monk with Ted’s original compositions.
Ted toured in the early 1990s with the last Gerry Mulligan Quartet. He recorded three CDs with Mulligan and performed in major jazz festivals throughout the world. One critic noted, “The rapport of the (Mulligan) group was amazing, particularly Gerry’s telepathic communication with outstanding pianist Ted Rosenthal.... The byplay with Rosenthal left me with my jaw hanging down.” (Gene Lees, The Jazz Letter.) After Mulligan's death, Ted became musical director of The Gerry Mulligan All Star Tribute Band, featuring Lee Konitz, Bob Brookmeyer and Randy Brecker. The group’s CD, Thank You, Gerry!, was nominated for a Grammy award in 1998.
As a busy sideman, Ted has performed in small groups led by Art Farmer, Jon Faddis, Phil Woods, Wycliffe Gordon and Jay Leonhart. He has also performed with Wynton Marsalis and the Lincoln Center Jazz Orchestra, The Carnegie Hall Jazz Band and The Vanguard Jazz Orchestra. Rosenthal is the pianist of choice for many top jazz vocalists including Helen Merrill, Mark Murphy and Ann Hampton Callaway.
Ted’s CDs as a leader showcase both his creative approach to standards and classics as well as his original compositions. His latest CD, My Funny Valentine (2008), is an instrumental tribute (with George Mraz - bass, Al Foster - drums) to vocalist Helen Merrill, with whom Ted has performed with for more than a decade. The King and I (2006), features Rosenthal's jazz takes (with George Mraz - bass, Lewis Nash - drums) on songs from the classic musical. One Night in Vermont (2004), a duo performance with legendary trombonist Bob Brookmeyer, explores great American standards in an unusually inventive and improvisatory style. All About Jazz calls this CD a stunning album complete with all of jazz's beloved nuances…. All those stirring moments remind you of why you need it in your life.
Both Expressions, a quintet date, and ThreePlay, a trio outing featuring Dennis Irwin and Matt Wilson, explore Rosenthal originals and jazz standards with an invigorating and free spirited approach. Ted pays homage to jazz pianist-composers on Rosenthology (Concord Jazz 1996), with Michael Formanek and Billy Drummond: “Listen to the way Rosenthal slithers and crawls into Lennie Tristano’s ‘Wow,’ and you just may mouth the song’s title!” (Larry Blumenfeld, Jazziz). Images of Monk enlists the robust sound of a sextet to accentuate Ted’s inventive arrangements of Monk compositions. Surely Monk would have dug this playfulness more than the literalism of his imitators. (Robert L. Doerschuk, Keyboard Magazine)
For Ted, jazz piano encompasses a full range of jazz’s history and expression. Ted’s most recent solo piano CD, The 3 B’s, which received a 4-star review in Down Beat Magazine, features solo renditions of the music of Bud Powell, Bill Evans and original improvisations on Beethoven themes. “With this subtly provocative solo recital, Ted Rosenthal merges three very different streams of piano history, putting his personal stamp on all of them. In Rosenthal's hands all this music sounds as though it sprang from the same muse, and that's the sign of a skilled, imaginative artist.” (David R. Adler, All Music Guide). About Ted’s first solo piano CD, Ted Rosenthal Live at Maybeck Hall, Richard Palmer of Jazz Journal wrote, “I am particularly taken with his lovingly historical grasp of jazz piano’s panoply…. One of the best Maybecks I’ve heard.”
Ted regularly performs in jazz piano concerts, including at the 92nd Street Y with Bill Charlap and Dick Hyman. At the 2003 JVC Jazz Festival, Ted performed in, and co-produced with George Wein, “Piano Starts Here,” also featuring Kenny Barron, Cedar Walton, and others. Ted has also appeared on Marian McPartland's Piano Jazz on National Public Radio and on NBC’s Night Music with David Sanborn.
A recipient of three grants from the National Endowment for the Arts, Ted composes large-scale works as well as jazz tunes. The Survivor, a concerto for piano and orchestra that combines written and improvised sections for the soloist, has been performed by Ted with the Rockland Symphony and with the Manhattan Jazz Philharmonic. Ted often adds improvisations to his performances of Gershwin's works for piano and orchestra, adding an extra dimension of vitality and spontaneity to the music.
Ted’s classical/jazz crossover performances include solo and featured appearances with The Boston Pops, The Baltimore Symphony, The Kansas City Symphony, The Rochester Philharmonic, The Indianapolis Symphony, The Tucson Symphony, The Detroit Symphony, The Houston Symphony, and The Greater Palm Beach Symphony.
Ted’s latest work includes “Jazzing up the Classics,” adapting themes by Brahms, Schumann, Tchaikovsky and others into a mainstream jazz idiom. In addition he has been active as a composer, most recently writing/performing works for Chamber Jazz Ensemble, and collaborating with choreographer Nilas Martins in music for Jazz Ensemble with dancers.
Ted is active in jazz education. He presents jazz clinics throughout the world, often in association with his touring. He is currently a faculty member at The Juilliard School and Manhattan School of Music. He was a contributing editor for Piano and Keyboard magazine and has published piano arrangements and feature articles for Piano Today and The Piano Stylist.
Ted lives in Manhattan and Scarsdale, NY, with his wife, Lesley (Vice President and General Counsel of Lincoln Center for the Performing Arts), and two stepsons, Aron and David Szanto.
A new jazz leader —John S. Wilson, The New York Times