ADVERTISEMENT

Review: At any tempo, Bill Charlap’s group is a power trio

November 12, 2021 GMT
This image released by Blue Note Records shows album cover art for “Street of Dreams,” by Bill Charlap Trio. (Blue Note Records via AP)
This image released by Blue Note Records shows album cover art for “Street of Dreams,” by Bill Charlap Trio. (Blue Note Records via AP)
This image released by Blue Note Records shows album cover art for “Street of Dreams,” by Bill Charlap Trio. (Blue Note Records via AP)

“Street of Dreams,” Bill Charlap Trio (Blue Note Records)

Jazz pianist Bill Charlap opens his trio’s latest album with four bars of shifting quarter-note chords, the reliable pulse a compelling contrast to the unpredictable colors he creates.

The final tune settles into a slow, stalking rhythm, and after a closing contribution from Charlap’s left hand and a witty hesitation, the combo comes down hard on the final downbeat, sticking the landing with a satisfying splash.

From start to finish, “Street of Dreams” is a gem.

That’s no surprise: The trio of Charlap, bassist Peter Washington and drummer Kenny Washington formed in 1997 and has become a sure thing, releasing a succession of excellent albums. The latest set consists of eight tunes from the American songbook and such jazz composers as Duke Ellington and Dave Brubeck.

As usual, the trio is a model of complementary cohesion. Kenny Washington is especially distinctive with his brushes, and Peter Washington makes sure the beat always swings or sways.

ADVERTISEMENT

Charlap rarely reaches forte, aside from his occasional stabs in the lower register. He has the alluring ability to play both quietly and quickly, and when he offers a flurry of notes, no two are alike. Chromatic climbs mix with several-steps-at-a-time descents, and the result is an exhilarating morphing of melody as Charlap’s lyrical explorations toggle and twirl.

The trio also embraces boldly restrained tempos that give the space between notes its due. On “Street of Dreams,” even the silence makes for elegant entertainment.