Bill Charlap & Sandy Stewart
Recording Date: Oct 23, 2004-Oct 24, 2004
It is unusual to hear a son and his mother record together in a jazz setting, but this collection of ballads by Bill Charlap and Sandy Stewart is a stunning duo date. Charlap is best known as the leader of a superb piano trio, along with having worked extensively with Gerry Mulligan and Phil Woods, but he may find himself in great demand by other vocalists following this CD. Stewart has recorded only sporadically over the years, though she has worked with her son on a number of club dates. Her instrument has mellowed like a fine wine, with a slight vibrato that adds to the intimacy of each performance. Charlap's interludes between phrases are lush yet never overdone, while he makes great use of space in his accompaniment. While there are quite a few standards present, they also chose songs that have been unjustly neglected. "Here I Am in Love Again," written by the late Moose Charlap (the singer's husband and the pianist's father), is a hopeful song about love in its early stages, which they approach with tenderness. Another Charlap composition, "I Never Go There Anymore," is just the opposite, a sentimental look back at a distant past that can never be recaptured. The standards are just as enticing. Stewart restores the frequently omitted verse to a moving take of "Love Is Here to Stay" and perfectly captures the wistful air of "The Boy Next Door." Singer/pianist Barbara Carroll's engaging liner notes capture the essence of this very romantic CD.
All Music Guide
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This is a CD for lovers - for young lovers - for mature lovers - for lovers of songs of the great American composers. The pure and glorious sound of Sandy Stewart - the respect and dignity and comprehension with which she projects the lyrics - along with the constantly surprising richness of Bill Charlaps piano accompaniment make for an unforgettable; musical and emotional experience for the listener. The fact that they have taken standard songs of the Gershwins, Cole Porter, Rodgers and Hart, and Harold Arlen (among others), and given them new shades of meaning, is thrilling. The fact that they are mother and son makes the whole experience even more amazing.
The first hell-like piano notes at the beginning set the tone for the elegance of what follows: the warmth and simplicity of the Gershwins' "Our Love Is Here to Stay." Sandys impassioned rendition of Cole Porters "After You" is haunting. She sings the first chorus in a thoughtful, questioning way - heightened by Bills constantly evolving, probing accompaniment. His brilliant solo is followed by Sandys soaring vocal in which the full anguish of the lyric is revealed. The poignant way in which she sings "What would I do?" tells the whole story.
Yet there is joy and innocence and fun as well, as in Hugh Martin and Ralph Blaine's "The Boy Next Door." The Gershwins' "I've Got a Crush on You," which features a delicate and lightly swinging piano solo, is combined with Sandys sweetly sexy reading of George Gershwin and Buddy de Sylva's "Do It Again." Note the delicious humor of her declaration of "no, no, no, no, no!!"
The interpretations of Harold Arlen and Yip Harburgs "Happiness Is Just a Thing Called Joe" and Arlen and Truman Capote's "A Sleepin' Bee" are breathtakingly lovely, as is Sandy's a cappella statement of Irving Berlin's "I'll Be Loving You Always" - one lovers pledge to another.
Rodgers and Hart are represented by a delightful "Dancing on the Ceiling" and Rodgers and Hammerstein by a mesmerizing version of "It Might As Well Be Spring." How well Sandy and Bill know that less is more. How well they both know the impact of silence between notes or phrases. How well they are able to transmit the essence of each song musically and lyrically. I low effortlessly Bill's velvet cushion of support is always there enhancing the moment. And how fitting that they pay tribute to the composer Moose Charlap (Sandy's late husband and Bills father) with two of his songs.
"Here I Am in Love Again,* with lyrics by Charles Sweeney, is a cautious yet enthusiastic assessment of a new romance. After a stunning modulation into the last eight bars of the song, Sandy's positive vocal performance leads us to believe that this time there's a chance that things might work out just fine! The nostalgia of "I'll Never Go There Anymore" is revealed by Sandy's heartbreaking vocal. The song is part of the Moose Charlap and Eddie Lawrence score for a show entitled Kelly.
One of the wonderful surprises of this collection was written by Arthur Siegel and June Carroll, "Where Is Me?" has a lyric which may resonate with many. The sadness of that lyric, however, does not apply to Sandy Stewart, for here she is at the top of her game, singing with a beauty and depth of understanding that few can match. Bill Charlap is also at the top of his game - already established, at his young age, as the premier jazz pianist of his generation.
I have known and admired them both for years, and I am proud to call them my friends. This CD is a reaffirmation of the power and magic of good music. My thanks to you both, Sandy and Bill, for giving us this extraordinary gift.