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Bill Charlap Trio: Distant Star

Like the subject of the title of the Charlap album, there’s something impressive but in a somewhat chill tone about much of the playing on both these Criss Cross releases. In his impressively hip liner notes for the Charlap side, Phil Woods lauds the title tune as “a nice, tight piece of work” and “a collective free-improvisation,” but the result, though technically impressive, is more cerebral than soulful, and the group’s takes on the standards “While We’re Young” and “Last Night While We Were Young” lack the sensuality and romance you might hope for from the player’s youth. Only in the final selection, Lerner and Lowe’s “The Heather On the Hill,” is there a hint of the loveliness of which pianist/leader Charlap is capable.

Gisbert’s Sextet fares a bit better, but only when they get past the starker, duller part of his book and on to more luscious or exciting material, such as Tyner’s “Effendi,” where pianist John Campbell solos strongly and comps deliciously behind Gisbert’s upbeat trumpet and Steve Wilson’s visionary alto. The leaner but artful sax styling of tenor player Chris Potter adds another dimension to the group’s approach to Monk’s “Played Twice,” and they all swirl wistfully through Bird’s “Segment,” pausing for a virtuosic galloping drum solo by Billy Drummond.

Originally Published