by Luke Stewart
Kenny Rittenhouse has developed a reputation as one of the DMV’s most versatile and virtuosic trumpeters, able to bounce between classical music and various sorts of jazz with the poise of a true master. His sophomore album, New York Suite, further exhibits him as a gifted composer, crafting complex lines and harmonies, all the while making great use of his excellent group.
Rittenhouse recorded it in January with a septet featuring some of the usual suspects of the District jazz community’s top brass. It’s little wonder that the pianist Allyn Johnson, the trombonist Reginald Cyntje, and the saxophonist Lyle Link continuously crop up on District artists’ liner notes – these are simply three of the most well-versed and sensitive jazz musicians playing today, anywhere. The seasoned bassist Romeir Mendez, the veteran drummer J.C. Jefferson, Jr., and Rittenhouse’s fellow Army bandmate, the saxophonist Antonio Orta, round out the ensemble.The album opens with “Seneca’s Dance,” a polite salvo; as the title might suggest, the tune is a medium-tempo, hard-swinging blues, a great way to warm up to a classic-sounding recording. Next is ”Last Train to Harlem,” the first movement in Kenny’s “New York Suite,” a three-part piece with tracks scattered throughout the album. A very interesting tune once the title is realized, the continuous line from the piano and bass is reminiscent of the Nuyorican clave, a standout in the culture of Harlem. Though set in 3/4 time, the feel is very similar to much of Duke Ellington’s Latin-tinged work, complete with the intricate melodic line shared by the horn section. Continue reading