Rich Rosenthal is a guitarist who's had more than his share of problems and woe with drugs following a deep depression after being forced by parents to attend a business-oriented high school merely because he'd professed a desire to become a musician. I don't know about you, dear reader, but I can't think of a closer correlate to Hell than business school. I may be mistaken, but didn't Ed Gein, Jeffrey Dahmer, and Mitt Romney major in Business? Nonetheless, once you're hooked to drugs and alcohol, you're hooked, but, following a long period thus ensconced, he came out on the other side to devote himself to the avant-garde jazz music exemplified on Falling Up. Interestingly enough, Rosenthal's dad was a jazz enthusiast, and, luckily enough, before entering high school, Rich took guitar lessons from distant cousin Dave Moreno…who also turned him on to Sun Ra, Jimmy Lyons, Ornette Coleman, and other killer musos.
After that high school nightmare, Rich joined the Steamfitters Union, kept to the drugs for recreation, dropped music, and plunged in and out of a foggy haze until cleaning up in '91. He then resumed lessons with Moreno and never looked back, studying, working, playing, and getting ready for first a gig with Falling Up's sax player, Joe Giardullo, on that gent's well received Red Morocco CD and now this disc, a combination of structure and free improv. The bulk of the release, played out in quartet, is interplay between Rosenthal and Giardullo, a constant flow of angular work composed of dark, jittery, abstract songs alternating between clashing scenarios and complementarily askew shades with bursts of speed and skronk.
Airing Out, though, is unfortunately a song where Rosenthal takes to a triggered MIDI synth (I think that's what it is, sounds like it, but the outboard isn't mentioned in the liner credits), much as many axewielders have also done over the years, even including Allan Holdsworth, all to almost universally regrettable effect, sounding like a cheesy out-of-timbre Casio instead of, say, a Jupiter 6 or Kurzweil, a matter of cardboard pseudo-dramatic plasticity rather than literary backdrop. Anywhere else, this would qualify as 'neoprog' or somesuch, and thank God it's the only slice of the album conducted thuswise. Falling Up, on the other hand, concentrates on Giardullo, Rosenthal comping behind him in a ballad rescued from some sort of Lord Dunsany or James Branch Cabell nervous fairyland. It works well precisely through pure celestial colorations married to terrene thoughtfulness. Giardullo is definitely the co-front choice for Rich, constantly fresh and imaginative as Rosenthal either goes nuts, the closing Eternal Meltdown being his shred cut, or arranges sounds in the air like a mural from a cool graffiti artist off his meds.
Edited by: David N. Pyles
Copyright 2013, Peterborough Folk Music Society.
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