Pianist Bill Charlap's intelligent musicality is quietly validated in the choice of guests he brings to his new recording of Hoagy Carmichael standards, Stardust. Right on the closing chords of a rousing trio reading of "Jubilee," the listener is treated to the opening lines of "I Get Along without You Very Well" a cappella introduction from Mr. Tony Bennett. A most fabulous pairing that would make any listener hope for a Bennett/Charlap project to mirror the Bennett/Bill Evans project of almost 30 years ago. Bennett is followed by Frank Wess who blows a plaintive tenor through "Rockin' Chair" and "Blue Orchids." Guitarist Jim Hall contributes to "Two Sleepy People." And the highlight— master balladeer Shirley Horn, as typical of her style, takes a slow and sumptuous look at "Stardust." Clocking in as the disc's longest cut, "Stardust" amply illustrates why Shirley Horn and Bill Charlap are among the best at what they do. I would call "Stardust" the centerpiece if it were not for the brilliant trio simmer on "Georgia on My Mind." Peter Washington's bass perfectly sustains the slow tempo as Kenny Washington seasons the piece with his spare traps. Charlap finds all of the blue notes and bassist Washington transforms them into an American tribute. Both Charlap and Washington solo throughout the blowing parts. The songs feels like a hot Summer afternoon, low humidity and dusty.
I hear Bill Charlap as the missing link between the churchy blues of Gene Harris, Monty Alexander, and Junior Mance and the opulent Ballade of Fred Hersch, Lynn Arriale, and dare I say, Bill Evans. Enough said, no go and enjoy an honorable treatment of Hoagy Carmichael.
Track Listing: Jubilee; I Get Along Without You Very Well; Rockin' Chair; I Walk With Music; Two Sleepy People; The Nearness Of You; One Morning In May; Blue Orchids; Georgia On My Mind; Stardust; Skylark. (Total Time: 52.34).
Personnel: Bill Charlap-- Piano; Kenny Washington-- Drums; Peter Washington-- Bass; Tony Bennett--Vocals; Shirley Horn-- Vocals; Jim Hall-- Guitar; Frank Wess-- Tenor Saxophone.