Celebrating 24 years together, pianist Bill Charlap’s trio with the Washingtons (bassist Peter and drummer Kenny—no relation) comes as close as any piano trio can to batting a thousand. Even their less inspired efforts, whether onstage or on record, still bear the marks of high-level professionalism and empathy that only a long-lived and prolific ensemble can develop.
And Street of Dreams is not one of their less inspired efforts. If anything, the degree of inspiration on opener “The Duke” alone could carry the whole album. Charlap finds new reserves of depth and nuance in the fond reverence of Dave Brubeck’s paean to Ellington, and that’s without considering the rhythmic oneupmanship of his and Kenny Washington’s interplay during the pianist’s solo.
The drummer, incidentally, switches from brushes to sticks halfway through “The Duke.” It’s one of two moments off the brushes; the other, during “Out of Nowhere,” finds Washington and Charlap trading eights. If these two passages are the album’s most rhythmically intense, though, it’s not by much, which should tell you something about how deep the swing here is. The fours they trade on “You’re All the World to Me,” with Kenny back on brushes, is still stirring, and just as much groove goes into Kenny Burrell’s “Your Host,” for example, with Kenny’s smart accents helped along by an assured Peter Washington working slightly in front of the beat.
Nor are the trio’s ballad treatments less engaging. Charlap’s tender read of Frank Loesser’s “I’ll Know” is accentuated by the Washingtons’ close following of his every step; the title track reaches near-despondency because of Charlap and Peter Washington’s subtle, shared use of dynamics and space. Street of Dreams is simply a reminder of how terrific an album of straight-ahead piano-trio standards can be.