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CD Review



Bill Charlap Trio - Live at The Village Vanguard
Blue Note Records
      While most people turn to the old mainstays like Barry White and Marvin Gaye when choosing mood music to use while seducing a loved one, I have always run a different course in the love sounds department. In my personal experiences, smooth jazz is what does the trick in the bedroom. Now, by smooth jazz, I don't mean any of the dreck they play on those horrid "Quiet Storm" shows or any of Wayman Tisdale's garbage jazz. I mean great jazz with an emphasis on piano. Smooth, confident jazz like Bill Charlap and his trio play when they are letting loose.
      You might laugh, but I am dead serious - don't knock it until you've tried it and have had the piano magic work it's wonders on you and your partner. In fact, I'll give you an example...a funny one, but an example nonetheless. I am a big fan of MMA bouts on televison. For those who don't know what that means, MMA stands for Mixed Martial Arts which means the combatants are allowed to kick as well as punch, and even get their wrestle on (which I hate) as they try to subdue their opponents by knockout or submission. Anyways, I am chilling at my house with a few of my buddies and I stick some jazz CDs on as we watch these bouts because none of us can stand the announcing on these shows. As the fighters get their clinches going and one of the fighters wrestles another on to the mat for a little ground-and-pound, the piano jazz comes on. How interesting and fitting it seemed as the soft piano music played while the two combatants writhed on the floor trying to get the upper hand so as to strike their opponent. Maybe a little too fitting as we all looked at each other a little uneasily and decided to put some Miles Davis in the stereo instead. Now if jazz piano can make a serious fight seem like a romantic coupling, it might do something for your own bedroom clinches. Choke-outs not allowed, however.
       A very weird but also very true story.
       Back to the music.
       This album, a rare live set from Charlap, was recorded in New York City at The Village Vanguard which has always seemed to be at the very center of the jazz world. It is a setting which seems to suit Charlap well. Seeking to show his ability at interpreting others' work by filling this album with covers, Charlap acquits himself very well and manages to make songs by Gerry Mulligan, Rodgers and Hart, and Arlen and Mercer sound as if they were written for him. Along with the rest of his trio, Peter Washington (bass) and Kenny Washington (drums), Charlap manages to start strong with Mulligan's "Rocker" and increase the intensity right up to the last cut, the standard "Last Night When We were Young." In between these two songs are seven more filled with the kind of sophisticated harmonic explorations and melodic inventions of a player who has reached the apex of his abilities. Charlap and his band show a tightness and a confidence borne out of years of honing their talents to a fine line. While much is going on, nothing is being overplayed or overwrought. The essence is there and nothing more - to take anything away would be a crime and to add anything would be a waste. Though Charlap is not yet a huge name in the jazz world, he has improved greatly over his time as a leader and if he keeps making albums this good he is going to make a huge wave in the jazz world in the next ten years or so. This is an album for which a legend can be started.
       Fans of piano jazz are going to love this record. Very urbane and very well played, this music can serve as the soundtrack to many things and goes down very easily. A great jazz album for a Sunday morning/afternoon. - Scott Homewood 



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