Making old stuff new, underscoring the eloquence of style and revealing the way tradition trickles forward
has been at the center of the Bill Charlap’s work for two decades now, and this new album makes a
case for the notion that the group gets more articulate with each
passing year. With bassist Peter Washington and drummer Kenny
Washington at his side, the pianist puts an original fingerprint on
the sage formulations of others. The punch and bounce that marks Gigi
Gryce’s relatively obscure “Satellite” here on their second Impulse!
album is an apt indicator. Using skill, ingenuity and teamwork, they
bring both poise to the performance while assuring that verve and
legibility are paramount.
In a nutshell, that’s the formula the group has been refining from the
get-go. But familiarity of approach isn’t a foe of creativity for this
bunch. Revered for tackling some of jazz’s most intriguing nuggets,
they provide enough panache to make each of these pieces crackle with
the kind of action that reminds how entertaining jazz can be. To some
degree, they’re an “inner-workings” band. It’s sort of impossible not
to be bowled over by the intricacies each member donates to the cause.
On “Spring Can Really Hang You Up the Most,” Charlap is out front
doing the talking, but the nuanced lift Washington’s brushes provide
are crucial to defining the track’s character. Ditto for the lithe
bumps his bass-playing mate places in the heart of Jim Hall’s “Bon
Sometimes things can sound miniaturized in Charlap’s music. I’m
thinking that’s because scale carries the day, keeping expressionism
at bay and trading a bounty of flourish for a parade of melodic
particulars. So be it. The utterly engaging workout they give
“Sophisticated Lady” is the essence cumulative detail.