Bill Charlap Trio – Live at the Village Vanguard

Bill Charlap Trio
Live at the Village Vanguard
(Blue Note – 2007)
by Donald Eichelberger

Once in a while, the unexpected comes along; and once in a while, one is fortunate enough to get more than what one expected: This time it’s Bill Charlap, a very expressive pianist who brings something special to each composition that he’s chosen to share. And I use the word “share” because I really do feel as if we, the listeners, are indeed participating in a sharing—a more vital exchange than a “performance”.

The way that Charlap plays ballads is so personal, so intimate that I feel like I‘m eavesdropping on him while he’s playing whatever he’d play for his own pleasure in the privacy of his own living room when no one else is around. And when Charlap plays up-tempo, he levitates; and, lucky us, we get to go along!

Peter Washington on bass and Kenneth Washington on drums are so “in the pocket” with Charlap that the three of them sound like there’s only one brain directing all three of them, but it’s a “brain” that doesn’t belong to any one of the them. They dip deeply into a shared musical wellspring of creativity; and then they, in turn, share this musical nectar with us. These three musicians have distilled IT, and they’re sharing IT with us straight-up, no water no chaser. It’s pure, and it’s good for you. This is interactive music, in that it touches the “inner you”. As I said, this is more than a performance; it’s a celebration!

I don’t usually make comparisons, but Bill Charlap reminds me of another Bill: Bill “Heavenly Fingers” Evans. Simple elegance. Seemingly effortless. Using silence as music, too. Sweet, like a hot, fresh cinnamon roll, dripping’ with butter. Funky, like the smell of the best barbeque joint in town. As relaxed and peaceful as a languid, yet energized, sunny Sunday afternoon.

(Note: This is a live recording at the Village Vanguard, and for the most part, there’s NO background noise. The audience and employees are respectful and entertainingly entranced.)

So. I don’t need to mention any particular song on the CD. Pick one, any one, and you will be pleased.