It features a quartet that draws comparisons to Ornette Coleman’s 1959 group. Featuring alto saxophonist Rick Stone, bassist Kendall Eddy and drummer Austin McMahon, Rosenthal’s group tackles his compositions with creativity and a nose for sheer invention.
A big part of that sheer invention comes with Rosenthal’s interest in bluegrass. In this thread, he brings Wes Corbett and his staccato banjo textures in to assist. This gives the traditional jazz and post-bop a distinctive edge, serving as a risk that pays off.
The 29-year-old Rosenthal was born in Silver Spring, Maryland and raised in Guilford, Connecticut. He was surrounded by a host of musical influences throughout his life, including his father’s bluegrass tradition. Phil Rosenthal was a former member of the Grammy-winning bluegrass band Seldom Scene, in fact, and the younger Rosenthal’s fascination with the form came early and often.
The trick to integrating genres is to blur the lines between them, to make them seem a natural fit. With Lines, Rosenthal’s mission is clear and he largely succeeds.
From the outset, a calypso-oriented piece called “Subo,” Rosenthal’s love for creation is apparent. The opening number features a perfect meshing of horns from the leader and Stone. Eddy’s bass walks a groove and McMahon’s delicate, tropical underpinnings are perfect touches.
The banjo is introduced first on the title track, a pensive nine and a half minutes that lets each instrumentalist stretch out over a calm bass groove and simple brush work. The piece is lush and Corbett’s touches are subtle.
“Wedding Waltz” is where the bluegrass rubber really hits the road, however. It is a thoughtful number, but Corbett’s work has a bounce all its own. The song was originally imagined as a bluegrass ballad, but the jazz touches put another spin on the composition. A country-fried waltz, the lines of the piece swing lightly.
Lines is, as mentioned, a record about clouding distinctions and walking across genre boundaries. Rosenthal’s quartet handles the task subtly and with flavour. They may never go full-out, but there’s something about the gentle breezes that makes for good listening.