Bill Charlap Trio at the Blue LLama

The Bill Charlap Trio with bassist Peter Washington and drummer Kenny Washington came to town for a masterful performance at the Blue LLama on February 22. The group has been together since 1998 and it showed. To say they were a tight group is an understatement, but what really stood out was the masterful playing of Charlap, who was not only the main improviser but also arranger.

The repertoire was classics from the American Songbook as interpreted by Charlap: “April in Paris” was a bravura number where Charlap which made several references to the classic recording by Count Basie’s orchestra, the only thing missing was Basie’s spoken ending: “one more time!” and “One more once!” His version of “I Can’t Get Started” was breathtaking with fresh and stark melodic statements on an oft heard, if not hackneyed, ballad and Arlen’s “Between the Devil and the Deep Blue Sea” went back to George Wallington’s version. Charlap’s ability to verbalize jazz history gave his performance an uncommon depth. A few bebop tunes, like “Con Alma” and Monk’s “Criss Cross” were strong and swinging versions. The latter was a great feature for a creative solo by Kenny Washington. “My Funny Valentine” gave a nod to the recent holiday, and “Prelude to a Kiss” was more timeless Ellingtonia. Charlap also played a selection from his 2004 Leonard Bernstein album. “All the Things You Are” was a nice feature for Peter Washington, whose full-toned bass it was a pleasure to hear again. We recall his performance here with another piano giant: Tommy Flanagan.

It was a great night for music to warm us up in the middle of a historic winter storm.