Warren Vaché and Bill Charlan – 2Gether

Warren Vaché and Bill Charlap

(Nagel-Heyer – 2001)
by John Barrett

It starts with a wonderful idea: a garrulous trumpeter backed by a subtle, quiet pianist. If the expectation is good, at once the players defy it – and that makes it even better. For “If I Should Lose You”, the flamboyant Warren Vaché takes a mute and whispers like Miles. Reacting to this, Bill Charlap plays a broad stride, full of noisy figures … you will love the contrast. Warren’s solo is precise, fast, and loud only on the important notes; Bill’s turn is sneaky, and ends like Basie.

There’s a bop tempo to “You and the Night and the Music”, with Charlap dreaming the chords. Now the mute sounds like Dizzy, and now the exchanges are fevered. (Hear Bill take a big breath at the start of his solo – like he’s steeling himself for the battle ahead!) Warren wields a flugelhorn for “What’ll I Do”, and gives each note a yearning glow. Bill’s part is more involved, but just as sincere; this could be a lullaby. The horn then goes breathy on “Easy Living”, beside some barroom stride … and then the pianist gets elegant, honoring Chopin with the Charlap composition “Nip-Hoc Waltz”. This tune is romantic, lushly performed, and drenched in echo. Warren doesn’t play here, and doesn’t need to. This is where Bill Charlap blows his own horn.

“Etude #2” is a solo trumpet piece, with strong fanfares and sad dignity. Warren floats his notes, loading them with vibrato; it’s virtuosic, in every sense of the word. Charlap is lively for “Dancing on the Ceiling”, where Warren rasps his notes in a delightful whisper. His solo is rather inventive, and inspires a neat effort from Bill. “Prelude to a Kiss” begins in a concert hall (Charlap plays a lot of stuff, including Dizzy’s into to “‘Round Midnight”) and ends in the gutter, with Vaché yawning the theme. Bill’s solo covers a half-dozen styles … and you’ll love them all. And “St. Louis Blues” ambles off into the night, with the spirit of Monk and the agility of Vaché. This pairing is a natural, resulting in an album that’s a natural winner.