Bill Charlap & Herbie Hancock: Plays George Gershwin & Gershwin's World

Javier AQ Ortiz By

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The latest releases from Bill Charlap and Herbie Hancock add two terrific chapters to the reinterpretation of George Gershwin's music. They are, however, entirely different from each other. For the former, the sole justification for the project is, to paraphrase George Mallory and Sir Edmund Hillary: "Because he's there. For the latter, the self-avowed aspirations are much more grandiose. It's intended as an "event. Arturo Sandoval wisely stated that false humility is one of the worst forms of hypocrisy and, lucky for us all, Hancock is no hypocrite. The letter and the spirit of Gershwin closely guide Charlap, whereas Hancock is inspired by the memory of all that is Gershwin in order to write his own letter.

Bill Charlap
Bill Charlap Plays George Gershwin...The American Soul
Blue Note

Charlap adds a fearsome horn line quartet to his trio for Plays George Gershwin. Slide Hampton, Nicholas Payton, Frank Wess, and Phil Woods join the leader, Kenny and Peter Washington in a delightfully swinging date that, while refreshing Gershwin with bop, stays fairly close to his nostalgia, thoughtfulness, and incredibly profound melodicism. The radio friendly material is highly approachable, brief to a merciful point, sounds larger than life and is highly enjoyable whether one thinks of listening to particular renditions or in its entirety.

On "'S Wonderful Charlap begins with a quintessential Gershwinian solo head that is as playful as it is wistful and poetic, embodying the best qualities of both the source and its interpreter. Then the heat is on with a blowing session from the entire horn line, as well as the bassist. "Bess, You Is My Woman Now and "A Foggy Day are masterful renditions of musical romance. "Soon and "Liza illustrate why Charlap and his trio are so highly regarded. Bravo, Bill!

Herbie Hancock
Gershwin's World

Gershwin's World, rightly reissued as a Super Audio CD hybrid, is, well, a super production. It features the Orpheus Chamber Orchestra, various renowned figures such as Stevie Wonder, Joni Mitchell, Chick Corea, and Wayne Shorter, as well as several other jazz players of note. Several African musicians, as well as a Brazilian one, round out the interpretive cast. They thread Gershwin through Africanized, classical, jazz, and popular music. Indeed, the recording ought to become iconic.

"It Ain't Necessarily So is a noirish-hip, swingly cool piece, featuring Eddie Henderson, James Carter, Hancock, and quite a horn arrangement. "Blueberry Rhyme, featuring a Corea and Hancock duo, is epochal. "Prelude in C# minor, with soprano Kathleen Battle, is "hymnoptic. "Lullaby and Maurice Ravel's "Concerto for Piano and Orchestra in G, 2nd Movement are epic. Wonder's vocals and harmonica in "St. Louis Blues are infectiously bluesy. Hancock closes with an exquisite solo rendition of "Embraceable You. Is this recording eventful? Indeed, it is an extraordinary work of art.

Bill Charlap Plays George Gershwin...The American Soul

Tracks: 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: Peter Washington: bass; Kenny Washington: drums; Bill Charlap: piano. On 2,4,5,6,8,9 featuring Phil Woods: alto saxophone; Frank Wess: tenor saxophone; Slide Hampton: trombone; Nicholas Payton: trumpet.

Gershwin's World

Tracks: Overture (Fascinating Rhythm); It Ain't Necessarily So; The Man I Love; Here Come De Honey Man; St. Louis Blues; Lullaby; Blueberry Rhyme; It Ain't Necessarily So (Interlude); Cotton Tail; Summertime; My Man's Gone Now; Prelude In C# Minor; Concerto For Piano And Orchestra In G, 2nd Movement; Embraceable You.

Personnel: Herbie Hancock, Chick Corea: piano; Madou Dembelle: djembe; Massamba Diop: talking drum; Cryo Baptista, Bireyma Guiye, Cheik Mbaye: percussion; Eddie Henderson: trumpet; Kenny Garrett: alto saxophone; James Carter: tenor and soprano saxophones, Wayne Shorter: tenor saxophone; Bakithi Kumalo: bass and guitar; Ira Coleman: bass; Terri-Lynne Carrington: drums, Marlon Graves: guitar, Robert Sadin: percussion programming; Stevie Wonder: harmonica, vocals; Charles Curtis: cello; The Orpheus Chamber Orchestra; Kathleen Battle: vocals; Joni Mitchell: vocals.


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