CHALKED UP REVIEWS
Alan Rosenthal Elbow Grease Review
Alan Rosenthal is a jazz composer and pianist that was born in New York City. He studied classical piano with Nina Lugovoy and composition with Edward Simons. Rosenthal studied both jazz and classical. He attended the University of Chicago, majoring in composition under Easley Blackwood and W.T. McKinley. After graduating, he moved back to New York, and has since performed jazz extensively at a long list of tristate area venues including The Village Gate (where he was a rhythm-section pianist for the NYU Sunday afternoon jam sessions), Birdland, Cleopatra’s Needle (where he performs regularly with his trio and as house pianist for their vocal open-mic for 3 years), Cornelia Street Café, Smoke, Skipper’s (Newark), Trumpets (Montclair) and many others, appearing with Valery Ponomarev, Clark Terry, Fred Hopkins, Jimmy Lovelace, Phillip Johnston, Ron McClure, Jimmy Hill, Cameron Brown, Mike Richmond, Bobby Lavell, Bill Crow, Tony Jefferson, the pop singer Fantasia (whom he accompanied on ABC-TV’s “20/20”), Annette St. John, and many other noted artists.
About the Album
Rosenthal’s newest album, Elbow Grease, is a mainstream modern jazz collaboration. The piano leads the way with support from a cast of instruments, including trumpet, trombone, saxophone, vibes, acoustic bass, and drums. Together the ensemble’s interactive qualities and playing skills highlights Rosenthal’s original compositions. The nine tracks (eight of Rosenthal’s compositions plus one standard) feature various styles presented in different instrumentation, from solo piano to a seven-piece ensemble, covering a wide range of tempos, moods, and stylistic influences.
Our Favorite Tracks
“Up the Kazoo” has horns and a New Orleans influence, and the melody is accompanied by multiple hits and clever feel changes. The vibraphone adds a fresh color to the melody. The trumpet, saxophone and trombone buzz with rich harmonic lines and call and response with the rhythm section. Bill Ware hammers out a very musical solo. Brian Glassman’s big woody bass sound takes the next solo, supported by Rosenthal’s supportive accompanying filling the space around the bass solo. Rosenthal’s composition has many textures, harmonic twists, and excellent use of three-horn writing.
“Blue J” features Rosenthal’s original composition in a trio setting. His composition is still based around the melody and rhythm section creating a flow with hits and trio figures that build interest. The waltz feel is the focus as the melody transforms. Rosenthal’s piano solo is an active experience of harmonic figures that are melodic and crafted with care. The harmonic framework is perfect for Rosenthal, who stretches out, building a solo that is melodic and lyrical. The waltz groove crated by Brian Glassman on bass and Mike Campenni on drums is elastic and creates a feeling of propulsion.
Rosenthal shows he is both a player and a composer on Elbow Grease. He is comfortable in front of the band, pulling as a soloist. Rosenthal is also comfortable creating the compositional space with beautiful melodies and harmonic settings for the various ensembles to explore. Rosenthal plays with control of tone and lyrical phrasing as he sings through the piano and pen, creating beautiful music for us to enjoy.