In his interviews and recordings alike, pianist Bill Charlap has demonstrated an unflagging if unfashionable enthusiasm for the standards. After attracting attention as a sideman with Gerry Mulligan and Phil Woods, Charlap signed to Blue Note five years ago, and he and his excellent trio have since explored a mix of familiar and forgotten compositions on a series of songbook albums–there’ve been tributes to Hoagy Carmichael and Leonard Bernstein so far, with a Gershwin set in the works. Charlap, bassist Peter Washington, and drummer Kenny Washington display clearly the collective intuition you’d expect in a topflight trio. But where most contemporary groups would use their rapport to facilitate stepping out–granting each player the freedom to wander off, then realign when necessary–Charlap’s trio uses it to lock in, skipping abstraction and providing instead the simple, hard-swinging pleasures of bop much as it was played in the 40s and 50s. What most distinguishes the group’s work, though, are Charlap’s inventive arrangements: the wild dynamic leaps, outsize tempo shifts, and relentless swapping of lead and support roles don’t just give the tunes new vitality but also let the listener behold them from fresh vantage points. Recently Ben Wolfe has been sitting in for Peter Washington, and he’ll play with the group here. See also Wednesday and Thursday; the trio’s stand runs through the weekend (and includes a kid-friendly matinee at 4 on Sunday). Tue 4/26, 8 and 10 PM, Jazz Showcase, 59 W. Grand, 312-670-2473, $20-$25.
Art accompanying story in printed newspaper (not available in this archive): photo/Michael Jackson.