Monday, June 3, 2013

The Rosenthals Fly Away 2013

The Rosenthals - Fly Away
Jazz meets Bluegrass? Stranger things have happened as I once reviewed a solo piano work from an individual claiming his sound was an amalgam  of jazz, classical and bluegrass...Unlike the wonderfully warm and organic sound of The Rosenthals, my pianist friend was a bit one note at best. The Rosenthals and their first release are the perfect example of why I enjoy taking the occasional side trip when reviewing music.

Trumpet playing composer Daniel Rosenthal was born to play music. Growing up the young Rosenthal played folk music in the family band led by acclaimed vocalist, songwriter and bluegrass string player Phil Rosenthal. The passage of time found Daniel embracing jazz and moving on to lead his own forward thinking quintet and a stint as a key member of Boston's legendary Either/Orchestra. The lifelong musical ties that bind have come full circle as father and son join together on their first release brimming with original songs and the more traditional that are showcases for sophisticated jazz harmonies and the warm somewhat weather beaten sound of the Johnny Cash like baritone voice that creates that special connectivity all vocalists strive for but few seldom reach.

The key to success goes back to how father Phil instructed Daniel which was the classic less is more approach of making every note count. A key component to the sound is the approach from Daniel Rosenthal to dial down the volume and essentially play the fills as needed. In addition Daniel sang tenor harmonies along with contributions from his mother Beth Sommers and sister Naomi Sommers to round off a true family collective. "I'll Fly Away" and "Pretty Polly" are spot on in terms of an accurate portrayal of father and son as a duo. "Single Again" had it's genesis in the studio which while deceptively simple in scope includes some precision polyphony from alto saxophonist Rick Stone.

While father Phil remains true to tradition and rightfully so, Daniel brings a deep appreciation for the ECM sound that while powerful is not without a strong organic root with a pastoral foundation. The ironic back story with Fly Away being that while father Phil instructed Daniel to approach the melody with a simple yet cautionary type reverence, Steve Lacy and Bob Brookmeyer gave Daniel the same advise.

The marriage of bluegrass or folk music with jazz is not all that new. The cultural roots of any artist are the anchor for creativity and as ECM has shown the results can be stunning on occasion. Creativity alone garners Fly Away 5 Stars with both Daniel and Phil Rosenthal proving it is possible for fathers and sons to peacefully coexist while pursing their creative voice as a delightful harmonious union of roots music at it's finest.

Tracks: This Rainy Afternoon; I'll Fly Away; Single Again; Since I Met Her; Masquerade Ball; Dreamed Last Night; Relaxed; Pretty Polly; Sunlight On The Garden; Over The Mountain; Little Birdie; Dirt Farmer; We'll Talk Tomorrow; Waitin' On Down The Line.

Personnel: Phil Rosenthal: lead vocals, guitar, mandolin, banjo, and percussion; Daniel Rosenthal: harmony vocals; trumpet; bass; fender rhodes, percussion; Beth Sommers: harmony vocals; Naomi Sommers: harmony vocals; Will Graefe: electric and acoustic guitars; Mike Connors: drums, percussion; Rick Stone: alto saxophone.