Wednesday, October 11, 2017
Bill Charlap's Sparkling "Uptown, Downtown"
September was a banner month. Two of my heroes produced new works. John McPhee published Draft No. 4. And Bill Charlap released Uptown, Downtown. I’ve already posted my response to McPhee’s superb book (see here, here, and here). Today, I want to comment on Charlap’s brilliant album. The choice of material is inspired – Gerry Mulligan’s “Curtains,” Tommy Wolf and Fran Landesman’s “Spring Can Really Hang You Up the Most,” Stephen Sondheim’s “Uptown, Downtown,” Isham Jones and Gus Kahn’s “The One I Love Belongs to Someone Else,” Michael Leonard and Herbert Martin’s “I’m All Smiles,” Rodgers and Hart’s “There’s a Small Hotel,” Gigi Gryce’s “Satellite,” Jim Hall’s “Bon Ami,” and Duke Ellington’s “Sophisticated Lady.” Each number is stocked with surprising notes and rich melodic imaginings. Charlap’s playing is fresh, sparkling, and perfect. He’s an improviser of the greatest subtlety and invention. His sidemen – bassist Peter Washington and drummer Kenny Washington – are excellent. My favorite cut is “Curtains,” a gorgeous, swinging, shimmering thing that went straight into my personal anthology of great piano jazz.