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Bill Charlap: Plays George Gershwin: The American Soul (2005)

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Bill Charlap: Plays George Gershwin: The American Soul How we rate: our writers tend to review music they like within their preferred genres.

With a crisp attack and seamless, lyrical phrasing, pianist Bill Charlap interprets this collection of ten Gershwin songs with authority. His septet allows plenty of room for each artist to speak his piece throughout, each soloing along individual lines.

Frank Wess is featured on "How Long Has This Been Going On?," which exhibits his slow and natural charm with a ballad. His warm and dry interpretation nestles into a cozy nook for a brief respite.

Phil Woods sets the pace for "'S Wonderful," which invites solos around the room. His muscular alto tone and brisk attack raise the outlook considerably. As Gershwin would have wanted it, this piece translates into a rosy look at high hopes and blue skies. As the four horn players trade fours and drive furiously, the piece resolves into a flurry of excitement. Every note falls into place cleanly as the ensemble goes out on a high note.

Woods is featured on "Bess, You Is My Woman Now" in an emotional ballad that captures the heart and soul of Gershwin's early jazz opera. Performed as a duet, the spiritually moving piece stands out for the ease with which both artists connect with their audience. Even after the story is told, you can still feel it in your bones.

Charlap's piano trio performs "Liza," "Who Cares?," and "I Was So Young and You Were So Beautiful" without the others in a straight-ahead fit of passion. His keyboard clarity and innate love for a beautiful melody bring the music close to us as intimate friends. Charlap develops a lyrical refrain thoroughly with gentle persuasion. His solo piano interpretation of "Soon" closes the album with a tender touch and a natural melodic flow.

Bill Charlap continues to bring great music that leaves a lasting impression. It's timeless.

Track Listing: Who Cares?; Somebody Loves Me; Liza; How Long Has This Been Going On?; A Foggy Day; 'S Wonderful; I Was So Young and You Were So Beautiful; Bess, You Is My Woman Now; Nice Work If You Can Get It; Soon.

Personnel: Bill Charlap: piano; Peter Washington: bass; Kenny Washington: drums; Nicholas Payton: trumpet; Slide Hampton: trombone; Phil Woods: alto saxophone; Frank Wess: tenor saxophone.

Record Label: Blue Note Records

Style: Straight-ahead/Mainstream


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