Bill Charlap – Live at Scullers

Bill CharlapBill Charlap
Live at Scullers

Jan 31, 2002
by Matthew S. Robinson

It was a demographically mixed crowd that gathered at Boston’s warmest jazz room to hear Blue Note artist Bill Charlap do his thing on the piano, backed by the drum n’ bass team of Tony and Peter Washington (no apparent relation). As Charlap mixed precise placements with varied feels, Peter’s fingers blurred along his oaken neck as Tony offered uninventive lines broken by occasional snare pounds and late fills. John Carese’s “Israel” was a snappy tour of the Holy Land; easy going and free of violence, yet not so spiritual.

The soul arrived soon enough, however, in the form of Harold Arlen’s “Blues in the Night,” in which Charlap’s moonlit keys peaked through Peter’s foggy bass as Tony plodded along. When not playing, Charlap got even deeper into the moment, rising off his bench and contorting his body and soul to the accompaniments in hi s head. G.G. Grace’s “Satellite” was also truer to its title, spinning and exploring in a long loping orbit. After Charlap posed the musical question “Where Have You Been” (as in the Cole Porter song), the Washingtons responded with firm and stronger fills.

The instantly recognizable “Lady is a Tramp” established the story as a melancholy remembrance and then meandered off to play. When the trio entered for the peppy second chorsu, the roels reversed as Charlap comped for the bass melody. A trickly left-handed “Stardust” prepared to send the happy audience back into the night, but Charlap even suggested a venue-appropraite means of transport with his bouncy and very un-titular “Slow Boat to China,” which almost blew itself out of the water before pulling back into port.