Bill Charlap Trio, Street of Dreams Review
by Nolan DeBuke
Bill Charlap is a premiere pianist in the jazz community. He has performed with many leading artists, ranging from Phil Woods and Tony Bennett to Gerry Mulligan, and is known for his interpretations of American popular songs. In addition, he has recorded albums featuring the music of Hoagy Carmichael, Leonard Bernstein, and George Gershwin. In 1997, Charlap formed the Bill Charlap Trio with bassist Peter Washington and drummer Kenny Washington (no relation), now recognized as one of the leading groups in jazz. In 2000, he was signed to Blue Note Records and received two Grammy Award nominations for Somewhere: The Songs of Leonard Bernstein and The Bill Charlap Trio: Live at the Village Vanguard. Charlap is married to jazz pianist Renee Rosnes, and they have often collaborated in a duo piano setting, including Double Portrait on Blue Note. Charlap returns to Blue Note for his latest album, Street of Dreams, featuring his enduring trio with bassist Peter Washington and drummer Kenny Washington. The album is eight songs consisting of classics and Songbook favorites as the trio celebrates the chemistry both on and off the bandstand.
Dave Brubeck’s “The Duke” has all the elements of a great piano trio. An intricate voiced solo piano opening, a playful playing of the melody by the trio, and interaction between the three players. Peter’s bass fills the bottom register with his big warm, growling bass sound, and Charlap lightly navigates the piano keys. Kenny’s time flows with Charlap as he colors behind his phrases. This is a strong opening selection and indicative of the music that follows.
The classic “Out Of Nowhere” is taken at a medium-up tempo and features more interaction between the three players. Peter’s solo is first; his lines keep both the harmony and melody in focus as he effortlessly plucks the taut strings of his double bass. Charlap follows with a driving solo that explores rhythmic motifs with Kenny as the two push his solo forward. Finally, Kenny’s trading with Charlap continues the two’s conversation and builds to the final melody and ending.
Charlap delivers his usual elegant spin on these well-known jazz tunes. The trio is in sync and unified in the music’s emotive directions, and as a result, the music is a delight to discover. Street of Dreams is an artistic showcase of the capabilities of a long-standing relationship between three like-minded jazz players.