Music in the Room
Label: American Melody
Under Yellow; Improvisation I; Easy Money; Hard Money; D.S.S.; Introspection; Distance; Jess and Stell; The New Rubato; Playback; Improvisation II; St. George
Daniel Rosenthal: trumpet, flugelhorn; Charlie Kohlhase: alto and baritone saxophones; Rick Stone: alto saxophone; Jef Charland: bass; Luther Gray: drums
Veteran Boston trumpeter Daniel Rosenthal, a longtime member of Either/Orchestra, wears his influences on his sleeve on his consistently captivating new album, Music in the Room, released Nov 14, 2017 on American Melody. With seminal composers and conceptualists Ornette Coleman, Steve Lacy and Thelonious Monk serving as touchstones, the music bristles with sinuous melodies, surging interplay and intersecting lines. The album captures a working ensemble featuring some of jazz’s most incisive voices, including Rosenthal’s Either/Orchestra bandmate Charlie Kohlhase on alto and baritone saxophones, altoist Rick Stone, bassist Jef Charland, and drummer Luther Gray. In many ways, Music in the Room builds on Rosenthal’s critically hailed 2011 debut Lines, a pianoless quartet session featuring Stone. The addition of Kohlhase “has allowed me to develop as a composer,” Rosenthal says. “I started adding Charlie to the group and writing for three horns, which really expands what you can do harmonically, especially with no chordal instrument. It’s unusual instrumentation that’s influenced in part by Paul Motian’s Electric Bebop Band. When Charlie and Rick are both playing alto, it’s almost a stereo effect, though Charlie is a little more influenced by Ornette and Henry Threadgill and Rick is a little more straight ahead, coming out of Lee Konitz.” The album opens with “Under Yellow,” a buoyantly chromatic melody that feels like something Ornette might have written on a particularly sunny Southern California day. “Improvisation I,” the first of two impromptu quartet pieces (minus Stone) follows, a roiling conversational crescendo that concludes in a rough kind of consensus. The band usually plays the paired tunes “Easy Money” and “Hard Money” as a mini- suite. Kohlhase’s searing alto work is something of revelation on the former piece, which bops along at a brisk tempo like a coming-apart-at-the-seams tune from the pre-free Cecil Taylor. The latter “Money” is bitter and bluesy, staggering and swaggering like a piece from Threadgill’s ingenious all-horns septet book. The album’s centerpiece, sequence-wise and spiritually, is a confidently extroverted take on Thelonious Monk’s rarely played “Introspection,” which features the quartet minus Stone. One of the era’s definitive bari players, Kohlhase displays remarkable poise as he twists around Rosenthal’s gleaming horn. “Monk is my favorite jazz composer,” Rosenthal says. “His melodies are somehow simple and complicated, while his harmonies can be confoundingly tricky. I got into Monk’s music’s studying with Steve Lacy at NEC. I studied with him for two years, and the whole second year I’d bring a bassist and drummer, and we just played Monk tunes. I always like to play at least one Monk tune per set.” The album’s longest track is Rosenthal’s searching ballad “Distance,” a piece that sometimes brings to mind Mingus in a tender mood. The pleasurably swinging “Jess and Stell” features some particularly lovely Stone alto work, while the Lacyian “Playback” showcases Charland and Gray’s loose-but-tight hookup as they move through the changing time signatures. Rosenthal closes Music in the Room with the jubilant, almost calypsonian “St. George,” which was inspired by an Ethiopian beer. In addition to concluding the session on an ecstatic note, the tune offers another take on the band’s exceptional rhythm section tandem. Rosenthal first met Gray via free jazz guitar explorer Joe Morris, and considers it something of a coup to have the drummer in the band. “He’s one of the busiest drummers around Boston,” Rosenthal says, noting that he’s the drummer of choice for saxophone greats Jerry Bergonzi and George Garzone. “Luther plays with a big sound that really fills out the group. And Jef gets a really nice sound with this gut strings. He’s a Charlie Haden-inspired melodic improviser who’s always listening.” Rosenthal is a consummate listener himself, and can be found teaching in the Berklee College of Music’s ear training department. When not touring with Either/Orchestra, he plays in Kohlhase’s Explorers Club, and the Ayn Inserto Jazz Orchestra (which is due to release Something Borrowed, Something Blues with special guest George Garzone). In addition to his quintet, he’s a charter member of Boston’s Composers Collective, co-leads the Hofbauer/Rosenthal Quartet with guitarist Eric Hofbauer, and continues to play bluegrass and folk music with the Sommers Rosenthal Family Band. He’s also an Alexander Technique teacher certified by the Alexander Technique Training Center in Newton. Rosenthal grew up in Guilford, Conn., the jazz sheep in a family of bluegrass musicians. His father, the singer/songwriter and string expert Phil Rosenthal, is a former member of the Seldom Scene, a Grammy Award-winning bluegrass band. His mother is a bassist, and his sister Naomi Sommers, is a singer/songwriter. Rosenthal is one of a stellar crop of players recruited by E/O’s founder and guiding spirit Russ Gershon, when the ensemble needed a jolt of new energy, and he contributed significantly to E/O’s critically acclaimed 2010 album Mood Music for Time Travellers (and the eagerly awaited The Collected Unconscious). The E/O connection also led to his participation on Mulatu Steps Ahead by vibraphonist, composer and Ethio-jazz legend Mulatu Atstatke. With Music In the Room, he’s continues to document his evolution as a trumpeter and composer with an inviting sound with a pleasing surprise lurking in every corner.
- Music in the Room by Glenn Astarita