Make a difference: Support jazz online

Support All About Jazz Your friends at All About Jazz are looking for readers to help back our website upgrade project. Of critical importance, this project will result in a vastly improved design across all devices and will make future All About Jazz projects much easier to implement. Click here to learn more about this project including donation rewards.

329

Bill Charlap: Plays George Gershwin: The American Soul

By

Sign in to view read count
Pianist Bill Charlap continues his inexorable climb up the top-tier, big-time jazz mountain with Plays George Gershwin, his first release since last year's Somewhere: the Songs of Leonard Bernstein. Here this quintessentially New York pianist covers another quintessentially New York composer—in this case, one so frequently covered by jazz musicians that one wonders whether Charlap and his longstanding trio of bassist Peter Washington and drummer Kenny Washington can find anything new in Gershwin's music.

But they can. And while Charlap's group plays as an unsupplemented trio on three songs (and Charlap plays solo on one), they're supplemented elsewhere by an all-star horn quartet: Nicholas Payton on trumpet, Slide Hampton on trombone, Frank Wess on tenor sax, and Charlap's one-time employer Phil Woods on alto. Charlap's arrangements for septet—and the occasional quartet—have the same characteristic uncluttered elegance one associates with his trio.

The tunes, of course, are first-rate; that's a given with George Gershwin. "Somebody Loves Me is taken mid-tempo and is all unhurried, unruffled swing, starting with the ensemble horns playing its syncopated head and proceeding into solos from, well, everyone. Woods' solo is particularly fine as he seems to intentionally channel Cannonball Adderley, throwing out blues phrases, quoting other tunes—but he's in especially fine form throughout the session. Peter Washington's trademark walking bass meshes with Kenny Washington's chiming quarter-note cymbal and offhanded snare accents under Charlap's so-sparse comping, pure understatement and gossamer groove; this kind of organic, fused simplicity is the result of years playing together.

Those three players can achieve that fusion at any tempo, too. "Liza is a skittering, caffeinated trio number played fast, with impossible snare triplets from Kenny Washington. You can hear the classical side of Charlap—or perhaps just a touch of Art Tatum—in his completely even articulation at high speed. The trio accompanies Wess alone on "How Long Has This Been Going On? , and while including a smoky, blue tenor ballad on the CD might seem predictably compulsory, the execution is above reproach. Even better is the Woods quartet feature, "Bess, You is My Woman Now, where the altoist and Charlap are at their most movingly expressive—Charlap, as always, sounding simultaneously emotionally raw and rigorously thoughtful. No one today digs deeper into a song.

And best of all is the trio ballad "I Was So Young and You Were So Beautiful." Charlap's notably his own man as a player, but here one is reminded of Bill Evans, if only in Charlap's use of space and singing lines, and an impression of tremendous preparation before the red light in the studio ever comes on. This is a song one feels compelled to immediately hear again.

But that's also true of the disc as a whole. Not every great jazz player's on a major label—but some of the guys in the big leagues belong there, and Bill Charlap's one of them.

Track Listing: 1 Who Cares?; 2 Somebody Loves Me; 3 Liza; 4 How Long Has This Been Going On?; 5 A Foggy Day; 6 S

Personnel: Bill Charlap - piano; Kenny Washington - drummer; Peter Washington - bassist; Nicholas Payton - trumpet; Slide Hampton - trombone; Phil Woods - alto sax; Frank Wess - tenor sax.

Title: Plays George Gershwin: The American Soul | Year Released: 2005 | Record Label: Blue Note Records

Tags

comments powered by Disqus

More Articles

Read Lucas CD/LP/Track Review Lucas
by Mike Jurkovic
Published: January 22, 2018
Read In Paris: The Definitive ORTF Recording CD/LP/Track Review In Paris: The Definitive ORTF Recording
by C. Michael Bailey
Published: January 22, 2018
Read D'Agala CD/LP/Track Review D'Agala
by Mark Corroto
Published: January 22, 2018
Read Not Bound CD/LP/Track Review Not Bound
by Don Phipps
Published: January 22, 2018
Read Not Nearly Enough To Buy A House CD/LP/Track Review Not Nearly Enough To Buy A House
by Mark Sullivan
Published: January 21, 2018
Read Journey to a New World CD/LP/Track Review Journey to a New World
by Troy Dostert
Published: January 21, 2018
Read "Smoke" CD/LP/Track Review Smoke
by Joe Gatto
Published: November 24, 2017
Read "On the Road" CD/LP/Track Review On the Road
by Jack Bowers
Published: January 7, 2018
Read "The Art Pepper Quartet" CD/LP/Track Review The Art Pepper Quartet
by C. Michael Bailey
Published: May 7, 2017
Read "Feather" CD/LP/Track Review Feather
by Dan McClenaghan
Published: April 22, 2017
Read "Italy 2016" CD/LP/Track Review Italy 2016
by Dan McClenaghan
Published: October 30, 2017
Read "Avenida Graham" CD/LP/Track Review Avenida Graham
by Edward Blanco
Published: February 27, 2017