Yes, beautiful music is still being played, and played beautifully as well. Doubters need only check out this bright and refreshing hour-long recital by pianist Ted Rosenthal and valve trombonist Bob Brookmeyer, recorded in August ‘01 at the Memorial Hall Center for the Arts in Wilmington, VT.
Much like the chicken and the egg, this is a case of which component one admires more, the music or the musicians. Any program that includes two songs by Jerome Kern and one each by Cole Porter, George and Ira Gershwin, Jimmy van Heusen and Irving Berlin, plus Bob Haggart/Johnny Burke’s enduring ballad “What’s New” is clearly beyond reproach. On the other hand, those compositions, brilliant as they are, are no more than notes on paper until brought radiantly to life by musicians as sharp and companionable as Rosenthal and Brookmeyer who conspire to make the time pass far too rapidly. Listening to them work together, it’s hard to believe, as Bill Kirchner writes in the liner notes, that this was the first time they’d played duets together. That’s what experience and talent can do.
As Kirchner further points out, “these explorations... do require that the listener pay close attention. There is little about this music that is obvious, but its subtle rewards are considerable.” Mind you, he is not suggesting that the music is esoteric or inaccessible, as it certainly is not. But Rosenthal and Brookmeyer have their own special way of approaching these standards, an approach that may not always be conventional but always brings out the best in what the composer envisioned. Brookmeyer, now in his mid-70s, is playing as well as he ever has (and that’s saying a lot), while Rosenthal, thirty years his junior, is, in Kirchner’s words, “a worthy partner. If he weren’t, Brookmeyer wouldn’t have done a concert—especially a duo concert—with him. Brookmeyer, as anyone who knows him can tell you, does not suffer fools or mediocrity, musical or otherwise.” (Gee, I hope he likes this review!)
When all is said and done, these are two acknowledged masters at work, choosing beautiful music and performing it not only immaculately but irresistibly as well. Concerts—especially duo concerts—don’t get much better than that.
Personnel: Ted Rosenthal, piano; Bob Brookmeyer, valve trombone.