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Bill Charlap Trio: Somewhere: The Songs of Leonard Bernstein

Jim Santella By

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Capturing the wide range of expression that Leonard Bernstein put into this music, pianist Bill Charlap leads a stellar trio through various forms of emotion on Somewhere. From the album’s opening “Cool,” with its built-in, street-smart intensity, to the haphazard “Big Stuff” at a loping tempo with laid-back demeanor, the trio interprets the composer admirably.

Blue Note has not forgotten its quest to seek out and represent the finest in mainstream jazz. Peter Washington provides lyrical and well-defined bass lines, as Kenny Washington varies the program with textures designed to capture the right impression. Charlap enunciates his interpretations with clarity of purpose and changes in dynamic volume.

While a few of the pieces contain uninteresting sections, the pianist’s seamless phrasing keeps each melody fresh on your mind. “Ohio,” for example would stall at midstream were it not for Charlap’s emphasis on melody and bassist Washington’s embellished accompaniment. The trio stretches that one out to over seven minutes. The title track, alternately, takes you by the hand and leads you to your reserved box seat for West Side Story, as solo piano recalls the simple truths revealed in that number through its easy-to-recognize harmony and melody.

”Lucky To Be Me,” from a 1944 production of On The Town, turns loose the jazz floodgates, as Charlap’s trio oozes with walking bass and ride cymbal camaraderie alongside the piano’s gentle waves. Charlap drives “It’s Love” through unfettered paces, “Jump” through pyrotechnic antics at a blazing-fast pace, and “America” through a lovely, multicultural parade of festive, dancing feet. “Lonely Town,” on the other hand, drifts along unencumbered through drowsy streets.

Charlap introduces several of Bernstein’s songs which have not received their due. With those, as well as with the definitively familiar songs, the trio proves that jazz can interpret good music as it sees fit. The result? Highly recommended.

Track Listing: Cool; Lucky to Be Me; It

Personnel: Bill Charlap (piano), Peter Washington (bass), and Kenny Washington (drums)

Title: Somewhere: The Songs of Leonard Bernstein | Year Released: 2004 | Record Label: Blue Note Records

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