Category Archives: Bill Charlap

Queen Mary 2 Jazz Lectures (Playlist 1: The Great Jazz Singers 1950-Present)

Thanks to everyone who attended my jazz history talks last week on the Queen Mary 2 during its voyage from Quebec to Nova Scotia to New York. I got a few requests to post the playlists, so here’s the first one, covering “The Great Jazz Singers (1950-Present).”

Queen Mary - Jazz Lecture

The Great Jazz Singers (1950-Present) Playlist

  1. “A Tisket, A Tasket” – Ella Fitzgerald w/Chick Webb Orchestra (1938).
  2. “Blue Skies” – Ella Fitzgerald (from Get Happy, 1959)
  3. “You Make Me Feel So Young” – Frank Sinatra, w/Count Basie Orchestra conducted by Quincy Jones (live video, 1965)
  4. “Tenderly” – Sarah Vaughan (live video, 1958)
  5. “I Fall in Love Too Easily” – Chet Baker, from Chet Baker Sings (1958)
  6. “Chega de Saudade” – João Gilberto from album Chega de Saudade (1959)
  7. “Every Day I Have the Blues” – Lambert, Hendricks & Ross w/Joe Williams and Count Basie (live video from Playboy’s Penthouse TV show, 1959)
  8. “No Love Dying” – Gregory Porter (live video from CBS This Morning 2013)
  9. “I Wish That I Could Shimmy Like My Sister Kate” – Cecile McLorin Salvant (live video from KNKX Public Radio, 2014)
  10. “Marrakesh Express” – Accent (video from AccentVocal.com, 2018)
  11. “Look For The Silver Lining” – Tony Bennet & Bill Charlap, promo video for album of the same name, 2015
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Filed under Accent, Allen Morrison, Bill Charlap, Cecile McLorin Salvant, Chet Baker, Ella Fitzgerald, Frank Sinatra, Gregory Porter, Hendricks & Ross, Joao Gilberto, Jon Hendricks, Lambert, Lectures, Sarah Vaughan, Tony Bennett

Not the “10 Best” jazz albums of 2016…

…but, rather, here are my favorite albums of 2016. Why the distinction?  I think it’s silly and self-aggrandizing for anyone, however expert their ears, to say “These are the 10 best albums of the year.”  I get that people, myself included, have an insatiable appetite to rank things, perhaps to make the world seem a little more orderly. But music is not science. Its virtues resist quantification.

Many 10-best lists seem to me primarily driven by critical notions of what sounds the most innovative, hence the usual bias toward the avant-garde. That’s fine. But I feel that jazz (and music in general) is not primarily about innovation or progress. It should appeal to the heart as well as the head.

I do prize originality and think jazz should sound new and of its time. But that newness is all about individuality, not some intellectual conceit of progress. A great album or song should sound like the honest expression of no one but this artist.  There’s another practical reason I don’t call these “the best” albums: there are many hundreds of jazz and jazz-related CDs issued every year. Nobody can listen to everything, and I don’t pretend to have heard them all.

The list that follows is an expanded version of the one I supplied to The 2016 NPR Music Jazz Critics Poll. The NPR poll showed, by the way, that there is essentially no critical consensus on what the year’s “best” albums were. The album that came in first place, Henry Threadgill’s Old Locks and Irregular Verbs, received  a mere 41 votes out of the 137 critics and journalists polled.

Here are my favorites, the albums I heard this year that moved me on a personal, emotional and intellectual level.  Maybe they will move you, too.

1. Trio Corrente, Vol. 3  (Independent release) – Using Brazilian pop and folkloric building blocks, the Sao Paulo-based trio of Fabio Torres (piano), Paulo Paulelli (bass) and Edu Ribeiro (drums) make joyful music of wild originality with jaw-dropping rhythmic precision. They shared a Grammy award in 2014 with clarinetist Paquito D’Rivera for the album Song for Maura. Still they are my candidate for the best band that almost nobody in the U.S. has heard of. (In the U.S. you can hear their most recent albums on Spotify.)

2. Peter Bernstein – Let Loose (Smoke Sessions) – A great album by one of my favorite guitarists. With fabulous backing by pianist Gerald Clayton, bassist Doug Weiss, and drummer Bill Stewart, Bernstein is free to “let loose” like a horn player, and, boy, does he.

3. Gregory Porter – Take Me to the Alley (Blue Note) – The burnished baritone returns with a new batch of originals that take his songwriting to a whole new level.

4.  Bill Charlap – Notes from New York (Impulse) – The new album from the impeccable pianist is a master class in class. I have given only three albums five stars. This is one of them.

5. Tillery (Rebecca Martin, Becca Stevens, Gretchen Parlato) (Larrecca Music) – Tillery combines the talents of three of today’s most interesting singer-songwriters: Becca Stevens, Rebecca Martin, and Gretchen Parlato. On their debut album, the exquisite songs defy easy categorization; maybe that’s why I like them so much.

6. George Coleman – A Master Speaks (Smoke Sessions) — The 80-year-old tenor saxophonist, a NEA Jazz Master and Miles Davis Quintet alumnus, released his first album as a leader in 20 years with an all-star band – and it’s excellent.

7. Snarky Puppy – Family Dinner, Vol. 2  (Decca-Ground Up Records) The jazz-rock-funk collective from Denton, TX is highly popular, and deservedly so.  Led by bassist/arranger Michael League, these guys have big ears for great music from all over the world. Here they are with singer/songwriter Becca Stevens and the Swedish band Väsen, playing a song by Stevens.

8.   Cyrille Aimée – Let’s Get Lost  (Mack Avenue) – A fabulous performance by the French jazz singer with the unforgettable voice.

9.   Fred Hersch – Sunday Night at the Vanguard (Palmetto) – Another brilliant outing by one of the best piano trios in jazz.

10. Jack DeJohnette • Ravi Coltrane • Matthew Garrison — In Movement (ECM) 

11.  Trio da Paz, 30 (Zoho) – Celebrating its 30th anniversary as a trio, the Brazilian expatriate supergroup of guitarist Romero Lubambo, bassist Nilson Matta and drummer Duduka da Fonseca continues to impress with its unique blend of Brazilian and American jazz.

12.  Roberta Piket, One for Marian (Thirteenth Note Records) 

13.  Catherine Russell – Harlem on My Mind (Jazz Village)

14. David Bowie – Blackstar (Columbia)

15.  Caetano Veloso & Gilberto Gil – Dois Amigos (Nonesuch)

My Favorite Reissues or Historical albums:

1) Bill Evans – Some Other Time: The Lost Session from The Black Forest (Resonance Records)

2) The Savory Collection, Vol. 1  (Apple Music)

3) Miles Davis Quintet: Freedom Jazz Dance: The Bootleg Series, Vol. 5 (Columbia/Legacy)

Favorite Vocal Album:

Cyrille Aimée – Let’s Get Lost (Mack Avenue)

Favorite Debut album:

Jacob Collier – In My Room (Membran/Qwest)

Favorite Latin jazz album:

Trio Corrente, Vol. 3. (Independent release)

Honorable mentions:  Joey AlexanderCountdown (Motema); Leslie PintchikTrue North (Pinch Hard); Nels Cline, Lovers (Blue Note); Dave Stryker8 Track II (Strike Zone); Kenny BarronBook of Intuition (Verve) ; John ScofieldCountry for Old Men (Impulse);  Joshua Redman and Brad MehldauNearness (Nonesuch); Ted NashPresidential Suite (Motema); Russell Malone, All About Melody (HighNote)

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Filed under Bill Charlap, Bill Evans, Caetano Veloso, Catherine Russell, Christian McBride, Cyrille Aimée, George Coleman, Gregory Porter, Jacob Collier, Miles Davis, Peter Bernstein, Roberta Piket, Trio Corrente, Trio da Paz

Bill Charlap Trio – A master class in class (from @downbeatmag)

BillCharlap2I wrote this review of the Bill Charlap Trio’s new album, Notes From New York, which appears (slightly abridged) in the May issue of DownBeat.  Here’s the full review.

Bill Charlap Trio: Notes From New York

Impulse! 006002547777911

★★★★★

Maybe it’s because he’s the son of a famous songwriter (Moose Charlap of Peter Pan fame), but nobody respects a songwriter’s intentions more than Bill Charlap. The universe of pianists who treat a tune with his kind of reverence, yet can also perform the kind of musical exegesis on it that Charlap does, is essentially limited to Charlap himself. He’s often described as the epitome of mainstream pianists, in the tradition of iconic players from Art Tatum to Ahmad Jamal to Hank Jones. But the term “mainstream” becomes meaningless when one considers the technical mastery, the subtlety of his feel, his risk-taking arrangements, and his unflagging melodic and harmonic invention – or should we say, re-invention.

Fresh from the critical and popular triumph of The Silver Lining, his Jerome Kern tribute with Tony Bennett, the new album with his finely calibrated trio (Peter Washington on bass and Kenny Washington on drums) is his first for the newly revived Impulse! label. It delivers nine standards, only three of which are widely familiar (“I’ll Remember April,” “A Sleepin’ Bee,” and “On the Sunny Side of the Street”). The rest of the program is devoted to more obscure but delightful songs from the worlds of Broadway, film and jazz.

The title and album art couldn’t be more appropriate: Charlap is a quintessential New Yorker from a celebrated show business family, and his light touch and ultra-cool arrangements are the very embodiment of Manhattan sophistication and elegance. The cubist-inspired album cover perfectly captures the esthetic of Charlap’s approach, at once retro and modern.

The album is a master class in class. The opening track, “I’ll Remember April,” arranged to a fare-thee-well, is alone worth the price of the album. Starting with its intro, in which Charlap manipulates our perception of where the bar line lies, he plays with time and re-harmonizes the song in continually surprising ways. “Make Me Rainbows,” a nearly forgotten John Williams movie song, is a mid-tempo swinger that includes a leisurely two-bar rest for the entire trio, a silent stretch that feels so long you could rotate your tires. Other highlights include Thad Jones’ bouncy, unpredictable “Little Rascal On A Rock,” and a joyous excursion into bebop a la Bird with “Tiny’s Tempo,” which affords both Washingtons the luxury of stretching out in typically tasteful style.

Saving the best for last, Charlap’s solo-piano interpretation of “On the Sunny Side of the Street” challenges our notions of this most familiar song. Charlap plays it very slowly and thoroughly revamps its harmony, turning it into a wistful tone poem loaded with nostalgia for a bygone, more carefree era when such an optimistic song might be cheerily performed at a more sprightly tempo. The air of haunted regret will stay with you long after the last perplexing chord rings out.

Notes From New York: I’ll Remember April; Make Me Rainbows; Not A Care In The World; There Is No Music; A Sleepin’ Bee; Little Rascal On A Rock; Too Late Now; Tiny’s Tempo; On The Sunny Side Of The Street (54:01)

Personnel: Bill Charlap, piano; Peter Washington, double bass; Kenny Washington, drums.

Ordering info: http://www.impulse-label.com

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Filed under Bill Charlap, Downbeat, Kenny Washington, Peter Washington

Hot Jazz and Swing is Still a Thing in the 21st Century

Review: The New York Hot Jazz Festival

Clarinet master Evan Christopher flew in from New Orleans to participate in the 3rd Annual NY Hot Jazz Festival. (Photo by Alan Nahigian for Jazz Times)

There’s a revival of hot jazz and swing from the 20s and 30s going on in New York, where a 14-hour marathon of vintage music at the historic Players Club in Gramercy Park was sold out two weeks in advance. My report in Jazz Times.

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Filed under Bill Charlap, Evan Christopher, Jazz Times, Music Writing and Clips, NY Hot Jazz Festival