Become a member and get exclusive access to articles, live sessions and more!
Start Your Free Trial

Bill Charlap Trio: Uptown Downtown (Impulse!)

Review of album from pianist and his longtime trio

JazzTimes may earn a small commission if you buy something using one of the retail links in our articles. JazzTimes does not accept money for any editorial recommendations. Read more about our policy here. Thanks for supporting JazzTimes.
Cover of Bill Charlap Trio album Uptown Downtown
Cover of Bill Charlap Trio album Uptown Downtown

The Bill Charlap Trio, with bassist Peter Washington and drummer Kenny Washington, has now been together for 20 years. Their nine albums should go in a time capsule, to show future generations what a state-of-the-art mainstream piano trio sounded like around the turn of the 21st century. Charlap is an example of how style, at its most advanced, is not merely a set of identifying characteristics. It is an aesthetic destination, indivisible from substance.

He is occasionally criticized for being too conservative. On Uptown Downtown there is not a single original. But Charlap proves the validity of interpreting worthwhile tunes that already exist, especially neglected ones like Gerry Mulligan’s “Curtains,” Jim Hall’s “Bon Ami” and Stephen Sondheim’s title track. When he plays “The One I Love Belongs to Somebody Else,” he traces the century-old melody in one long, unbroken single-note line. He renders its essence in a quick, seemingly effortless gesture, like Picasso with a pencil stroke. When he expands upon his source material, each note is precise as a pearl, and he streams fresh ideas that tie to a whole. Charlap thinks in well-proportioned finished forms.

Start Your Free Trial to Continue Reading

Become a JazzTimes member to explore our complete archive of interviews, profiles, columns, and reviews written by music's best journalists and critics.
Originally Published