Date of Release Apr 9, 2002
Though his debut on record occurred only eight years prior to Stardust, pianist Bill Charlap has become well known for his lush, poignant reading of the standards. On his second date for Blue Note, Charlap and his rhythm section lovingly re-create 11 songs by songster Hoagy Carmichael, and are joined by some truly big talents. Tony Bennett joins in on a spare arrangement of "I Get Along Without You Very Well," Shirley Horn graces an exceptional "Stardust" (perhaps Carmichael's best-known ballad), and guitarist Jim Hall's robust, muted tone is featured on "Two Sleepy People." However, tenor saxophonist Frank Wess damn near steals the show with his warm, languid playing on "Rockin' Chair" and "Blue Orchids."
- John Duffy (All Music Guide)
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Why not start with a grand master talking" about a young master or two, or three? Here's Tony Bennett - whose guest feature might be a masterpiece-speaking of Bill Charlap, the bandleader and pianist, of Peter Washington, the bassist, and of drummer Kenny Washington: If someone's got it, he's got it. Bill's magnificent. I met him through a band with Phil Woods in Europe. I beard him play and we just hit it off and I know his mother, Sandy Stewart, who's a wonderful singer. His father, Moose Charlap, was a songwriter, you know. Solid background. Anyway, on a couple of dates, a few gigs, Bill subbed for my regular piano player and I said, "My God, this guy is phenomenal. " I really like his bass player and his drummer, because they're' aesthetic guys. It means a lot to them for things to be right. They have that super concentration that creates that rarefied moment of perfect atmosphere. You know, I came into music to be around, musicians like these. Now that I'm the older guy, I have to say that I listen in awe to them the way I did to the best of the older guys when I was the young one out there. If you can maintain that awe for music, which Bill has and Peter have and Kenny has, then, if you have a talent for this thing, you can make each other feel good and you can make the audience get the feeling it came looking for. When we lose our awe, we don't give the music what it deserves, which means we don't give ourselves and our fellow musicians and our audiences what they deserve either.
It could be that everybody deserves to have at least one recording" like this. It will give you more than a taste of fire, more than a taste of class. It will lay some romantic reveries on you, pour you more than a nip of wisdom, prance forth a feeling for the street, distribute some wit where needed, and introduce swing- to those unaware of what it is, while meeting the requirements of those who are always looking for some more swing to enjoy. In every one of these respects, this recording has all of the things that make jazz so unique. It shows how welcome we can make each other feel when we want to, which is why swing should be considered the sound of the pursuit of happiness.
In pursuing that swing and the sense of humor and the romance that combine for a special kind of urban celebration that we associate with the great days of American song-writing. Bill Charlap has chosen to feature the music of Hoagy Carmichael, whose star rose at the same time that Louis Armstrong was revolutionizing American melody, harmony and rhythm. Charlap has also chosen to bring on grand master guests Tony Bennett, Frank Wess, Jim Hall and Shirley Horn.
"Each of them," says Charlap, "is such a master that it was easy to come into our conception and completely be themselves. They made it clear why they are the masters that they are. We learned from them, because every one of these musicians has so much life experience and musical experience and every one of them has a commitment to taste and purity and honesty. Every one of them is as real as it gets. We could not have been more honored. There are no living-singers of a higher class than Tony Bennett or Shirley Horn. I don't know of any younger players who do what Frank Wess does, who understand Ben Webster and Arnett Cobb the way he does. He creates just pure feeling when he plays. Jim Hall is in his 70s and he is the greatest modern guitarist, still the one who swings the most and has that thing that's connected to the people he's played with, which is true of all of these masters. Everyone they ever worked with or heard is in them and they are still great individuals."
That is equally true of Charlap and the two Washingtons, Peter and Kenny. Each of them is at the aesthetic forefront of his instrument. Charlap plays with a seriousness that is given a luminous lacquer by the grace with which he moves through the time, develops his melodies, and gives his own harmony melodic direction in conjunction with the counterpoint so fully mastered by Peter Washington. Kenny Washington has proven out his early promise and is one of the great drummers to have arrived in the music over the last 20 years. Put that all together and, in this gathering of masters young and old, you get what everyone deserves, that triangular and unsentimental celebration of the past, the present and the future. Everything that was ever great about the past in human terms is here. Somewhere everything, from anywhere in the world, that is great about the present is here. Somewhere. Finally, at no point in the future will our species ever reach a point more humanly true than what you will hear on this record. Somewhere.
- Stanley Crouch