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Warren Vache/Bill Charlap: 2gether

On their mission to seek out the mysteries and beauties in chords, cornetist Warren Vache and pianist Bill Charlap play with the power of virtuosity in reserve while holding back nothing of adventurousness. They concentrate on quietness, subtlety and lyricism, but their album is loaded with spontaneity and good feeling.

Magic arises throughout from Vache and Charlap’s unified thinking on pieces that include “Prelude to a Kiss,” “You and the Night and the Music” and “Easy Living.” One instance: As they trade phrases in “Darn That Dream,” Vache in the bridge of the final chorus slides back and forth between E flat and C minor in a descending figure. Hearing what he’s up to, Charlap slips from standard comping into an ascending pattern that amounts to a mirror image of what Vache plays as he finishes his phrase. It is four bars of complex counterpoint that Debussy or Ravel might have taken hours to write, and it happens at the speed of thought. Closing this gorgeous treatment of “Darn That Dream,” Charlap plays the coda that his former boss Gerry Mulligan wrote for the Birth of the Cool version in 1950, a nice touch.

Charlap’s “Nip-hoc Waltz” is an homage to Chopin and to some degree, it would seem, to Bill Evans. Its form is surprising, the solo piano playing stunning. His “Etude # 2” is a minor-key piece for unaccompanied trumpet. It has the lovely, mournful character of an elegy and puts Vache through his paces as thoroughly as would a study from an Arban or Schlossberg method book. It cannot be an easy piece, but you wouldn’t know that from hearing Vache play it.

The CD is impossible to categorize, except in one of the only two categories that matter: good. It sits on my current-listening shelf with Ruby Braff and Roger Kellaway’s Inside & Out (Concord Jazz, 1996) and Marvin Stamm and Bill Mays’ By Ourselves (Marstam, 2000), two other recent trumpet-piano duos of exceptional quality.

Originally Published