Bill Charlap

For the Record

The Bill Charlap Trio will be at the Regatta Bar in Cambridge on March 21-22 and the Iron Horse in Northampton on the 23rd.  This is mildly reassuring, but how is it that this genius of jazz piano hasn’t made a trio record in the U.S. since 2006?  (Charlap has recorded more recently under the banner New York Trio for Venus Records in Japan.)  This glaring omission reminds me of what Ozzie Cadena, legendary producer at Savoy, said when I met him in Los Angeles 25 years ago: “If the world had its priorities straight, we’d be making records every day on Hank Jones, Tommy Flanagan, and Kenny Barron.” Charlap hadn’t emerged by then, but if he had I have no doubt Ozzie would have included him in the pantheon.


Bill Charlap at Birdland

You won’t last long in public radio without making ends meet, and I’m sure the same is true for the record business.  But in Charlap’s case, I say damn the bottom line.  There are just some things that should be documented and preserved, and if that means robbing Peter to pay Paul, then so be it.  We need more of Bill for the record.

We’ll hear a few sets of Charlap in tonight’s Jazz a la Mode.  Meanwhile, enjoy this bird’s-eye view of the pianist at KPLU in Seattle playing “All the Things You Are,” and a medley of “The Duke” and “Sophisticated Lady.” Charlap is too much of an improviser to qualify as the definitive interpreter of standards such as these, but better yet, they’re reborn every time he plays them.


  1. james baker says

    We brought Bill Charlap in to play at the Collomore Music Series in Chester a year or so ago and he pleased multiple audiences: the general public, the jazz aficionados and the lovers of classical virtuosic piano playing. No mean feat. Cadena’s comment reminded of another wag’s point about singers, pop or classical: if American culture rewarded the purely gifted, Sarah Vaughan would have been canonized.

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