How we rate: our writers tend to review music they like within their preferred genres.
This bouquet of Ellingtonia is superb, but then you'd expect nothing less from this top-level trio. Bill Charlap, increasingly acknowledged as one of the best living pianists in jazz, has a unique touch; when he plays a ballad, as on "Sentimental Mood," he presses the keys so softly that the notes seem breathed, rather than struck. His swinging is crisp, his runs light and flawless, and he has a knack for finding the heart of a song – a talent shared by bassist Jay Leonhart, who conveys maximum meaning with his harmonic choices. Leonhart, also known for his droll songwriting, can convey this wry sensibility with his playing, especially with his sly use of the slide. Drummer Bill Stewart, whose profile isn't as high as the others (yet), does a fine and nuanced job throughout.
Highlights are hard to pick when a recording is this consistent, but I'd choose the aforementioned "Sentimental Mood," the very cool "C-Jam Blues," and the title track, with its swinging solos and trades and impish sense of fun. All told, a sparkling and stylish release.
Track Listing: Star Crossed Lovers, Jump for Joy, In a Sentimental Mood, Love You Madly, Sophisticated Lady, I'm Just a Lucky So-and-So, Prelude to a Kiss, It Don't Mean a Thing, C Jam Blues, I Let a Song Go Out of My Heart, Warm Valley
Personnel: Bill Charlap (piano), Jay Leonhart (bass), Bill Stewart (drums)
Author of "The Insanity Hoax: Exposing the myth of the mad genius," Dr. J combines her love of jazz and her fascination with psychology, focusing on where they overlap: in celebrating the individual spirit.
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