There’s just something right about the way pianist Bill Charlap interprets a song. He’s revered among musicians and singers alike as someone who understands and plays the lyric as much as the melody. Charlap carries on in the tradition of Tommy Flanagan and Hank Jones, masters of playing the Great American Songbook, swinging and squeezing perfect notes out of every tune. The trio never play songs the same way twice and if there’s even the smallest reason to catch Charlap in person, you must not deny yourself the reward of that experience. Until then, the superb Notes From New York (impulse!) is the best thing to being there.
Charlap shares a telepathic connection with bassist Peter Washington and drummer Kenny Washington, they’ve been playing together since 1997. “I’ll Remember April” speeds along at a spirited clip, with the trio swinging with an effortless groove, stopping on a dime and a pause, before dipping back into the fast lane. On the fleet tempos, the trio has an elastic quality. You can hear them playing together, then apart before moving back toward the center and picking up again as one voice. This is a fast, meaty recording and it’s over before you realize it. Sublime ballads (“Too Late Now”) mix with joyful swingers (“Tiny’s Tempo” was popularized by Charlie Parker) and a surprise or two (John William’s “Make Me Rainbows”). The album closes with an elegant Charlap solo, “On The Sunny Side Of The Street.” (9 tracks; 52 minutes)