WBGO Radar

The Bill Charlap Trio: Notes From New York

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There's a line in the new Miles Davis film, Miles Ahead, when actor Don Cheadle, as Miles, says, "It takes a long time to sound like yourself."

Never comes for some. Some never try. Too difficult, too much work. Because to deeply sound like you, you must look over your shoulder, take in the history, the great musicians and music that came before. That gives you traction. You get to sound like yourself. Not like them. Like you.

Now take three musicians with this depth. Who did the work, took the time, knew the great rhythm sections, became part of some of the great sections - with Gerry Mulligan, Tommy Flanagan, Art Blakey, Milt Jackson, Johnny Griffin. Traction.

Pianist Bill Charlap, bassist Peter Washington and drummer Kenny Washington have worked together, created together with a joyous synergy a piano trio depth where the musical sum is much greater than three parts. In the liner notes for "Notes From New York", the trio's first record on the Impulse label, Carol Sloane likens them to a fine, delicately calibrated watch.

On the opening track, "I'll Remember April" you know immediately this is not a repertory exercise. That choice is not a guide. You're more taken with Peter's bass playing and Kenny's dancing brushwork as Charlap explores the layers.

Charlap has such a deep sense memory with much of the music here. Part of his New York notes. The movie "Fitzwilly" starred Dick Van Dyke and produced tunes like "Make Me Rainbows" by Alan & Marilyn Bergman teaming up with Johnny Williams...before "Star Wars" , the Boston Symphony and streamlining the name to John. It's  a relaxing ride, or a 4/4 walk on a New York Sunday.

"Not A Care In The World" Bill said, was resurrected from "Banjo Eyes", an Eddy Cantor Broadway mistake, to favored nations status in the book of  giant New York song stylist, Bobby Short. Here's an all-out demonstration of what two decades of trading ideas in the moment and listening to each other will do for execution of a song.

I was in Feinstein's one evening as Dianne Carroll told us of her Broadway debut in "House Of Flowers" , auditioning for Truman Capote and sharing the stage with Pearl Bailey, surrounded by tunes like "A Sleeping Bee". The spirit is infectious. Charlap's lines move through Hancock, Flanagan, Kelly, Peterson, Charlap - his sound made comfortable by depth and swing quotient of his partners.

Recently, the world who dug the significance, raised the glasses high for the 50th Anniversary of the Thad Jones / Mel Lewis Orchestra, a big deal for New York's  jazz scene. Thad wrote music with all the intention of performance flexibility.  With "Rascal On A Rock" it just seems right for a trio that's never known to take the myopic way through town. Yet, you'll appreciate this sleek tailored version Carol Sloane refers to in the notes.

The Bill Charlap Trio's first recording was "All Through The Night". After a listen here you'll be as glad as me that it's turned into twenty years of nights.

"Notes From New York" comes out April 1st on Impulse Records. The trio will perform April 8th & 9th in Rose Theatre at Jazz at Lincoln Center in "Broadway to Harlem", with guests  Houston Person, Ken Peplowski, Cecile McLorin Salvant and Freddy Cole.


Gary Walker, WBGO Music Director and Morning Jazz Host

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