WBGO Blog
  • Live Blog: Bill Charlap Trio at Village Vanguard 10.8.08

    October 8, 2008. Posted by Joshua Jackson.

    Vanguard Marquee: Bill Charlap Trio
    Hear an interview with Bill Charlap.
    Get a random sample of Bill Charlap's digital music collection.

    8:01pm
    Doors are open at the Vanguard, and folks are pouring in for tonight's show.

    8:05pm
    The trio rarely gets to the Vanguard with time to spare before the show.  I guess that's how they keep it fresh.  It's definitely how to keep the production crew on edge.

    8:10pm
    Some extramusical news from the Vanguard.  Last night, someone robbed the nail salon at street level, just above the Vanguard.  Normally, that would not be a problem.  But the genius burglars decided to turn on the faucets and flood the place.  That caused a mess inside the club.  Lorraine Gordon arrived at 4am to a flooded club that resembled a swimming pool, complete with cops and firemen.  Jed Eisenman from the Vanguard came in at 11am and got to work.  Folks who walk in tonight would never know the difference.  That's showbiz!

    8:40pm
    Bill Charlap?  Check.  Peter Washington?  Check.   Kenny Washington?  Not yet.

    9:02pm
    The band's all here...obviously.  They started with an underrated composer, Gigi Gryce.  This is "Satellite."  Not a song that even most jazz aficionados know.  But these guys know it just fine.

    9:07pm
    Not to diminish David Tallacksen's excellent recording skills, but it definitely helps when you have this kind of natural balance among the musicians.  You can't make a bad performance sound great.  Not to worry here.

    9:14pm
    After a lovely version of Gerry Mulligan's "Curtains," Bill Charlap moves directly into Hoagy Carmichael's "Stardust."

    9:23pm
    The trio is swinging Lucky Thompson's "Prey-Loot" mercilessly.

    9:26pm
    Close your eyes, and you could almost imagine Peter Washington as Oscar Pettiford.  Such a crystalline tone.  It's a joy to hear Peter, always.

    9:32pm
    Harold Arlen's music always had a real blues feel.  I suspect that's a big reason why jazz musicians love his music.  This is "When the Sun Comes Out."

    9:37pm
    You're clear "Out of This World."  Another Harold Arlen composition.  Great rhythm driving this one.  Kenny Washington is providing the ultra-hip beat.

    9:51pm
    "Make Me Rainbows."  Bill Charlap's knowledge of the Great American Songbook runs pretty deep.  Nice swing.

    9:56pm
    Someone's cell phone just ruined this recording of Kern's "The Way You Look Tonight."  Even on vibrate, it interferes.  People turn them off!  What's so important???  Aarg...

    9:58pm
    The trio is burning thought the chord changes on "The Way You Look Tonight." I don't think I've heard many musicians play the Jerome Kern standard at this tempo.  Yowza.

    10:05pm
    Such a great trio when it comes to straight-ahead bebop and songbook.  They're on their own turf.  And you can hear it!

    10:08pm
    Just when I thought the show was over, surprise!  "Sophisticated Lady."  Duke Ellington gets the nod.

    10:14pm
    Goodnight, all.  We're back at the club in a few weeks.  Tell all your friends.
    -Josh

  • Bill Charlap Trio: Live At The Village Vanguard

    October 8, 2008. Posted by WBGO.

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    Bill Charlap. (Image Credit: Donald Dietz/NPR)

    Jazz pianist Bill Charlap has a passion for interpretation. He especially delights in selecting the most attractive showtunes of yesteryear and rendering them with tactful, warmly familiar gestures. With his longtime cohorts Peter and Kenny Washington (no relation), Charlap returned to the Village Vanguard for a live set, broadcast on air by WBGO and online at NPR Music.

    One of today's most celebrated mainstream pianists, Charlap is best known for his rich, sensitive readings of American popular songs. There was plenty of that familiarity in store, with charming readings of well-known jazz standards such as "Stardust," "The Way You Look Tonight" and "Sophisticated Lady." But Charlap picked plenty of more obscure gems, as well, including showtunes from the lesser-heard reserves of Harold Arlen and John Williams, and intricate compositions from undersung masters like Gigi Gryce and Lucky Thompson.

    With his trio, which has played together for more than a decade, Charlap is capable of spinning storytelling solos at all speeds and styles. All were on display at the Vanguard: the bebop tempos, the ballad romances, the technical facility, the lyrical flourishes. As usual, Peter Washington delivered pure, resonant tones on bass, and Kenny Washington — whose reputation as a voracious record collector precedes him — contributed nifty but unobtrusive drum work.

    Jazz standards run through Charlap's bloodlines. His mother is singer Sandy Stewart, and his father was Broadway composer Mark "Moose" Charlap, best known for scoring Peter Pan. (He has accompanied his mother several times on record.) Immersed in American songbook traditions from an early age, Bill Charlap made his name in the jazz world as both a sensitive accompanist and a strong straight-ahead performer: Early in his career, he was drafted into bands led by saxophone giants Gerry Mulligan and Phil Woods. Charlap has curated several jazz concert series in New York, and is musical director of the Blue Note 7, an all-star septet put together to commemorate the Blue Note record label's 70th anniversary in an upcoming 51-city, four-month-long U.S. tour.

    In 1996, Charlap linked up with Peter Washington and Kenny Washington, who are both highly regarded sidemen in New York. As a trio, they've since recorded five albums together — two of which have been nominated for Grammy Awards — and appear often in New York and around the world. The Bill Charlap Trio is a popular draw at the Village Vanguard, where it regularly holds two-week engagements: Appropriately, it's also the scene of the group's latest recording.