Bill Charlap Trio: Somewhere: The Songs of Leonard Bernstein

Bill Charlap, Kenny Washington, Peter Washington image 0
Donald Dietz

Bill Charlap, Kenny Washington, Peter Washington

What an inspired pairing: Somewhere (Blue Note) combines pianist Bill Charlap and the music of Leonard Bernstein. In terms of word association, “melody” immediately comes to mind for both. Charlap claims “melody is the most sublime of all the utterances,” and the variations he puts his thematic ideas through are always well-sculpted. When those themes come from Bernstein’s fertile imagination via the “West Side” of the Great American Songbook-challenging, sophisticated tunes such as “Somewhere,” the mini-perpetuum mobile “Jump” and that infectious Latin swinger “America,” as well as other Bernstein shows-it’s a match long overdue.

A pair of unrelated Washingtons-Peter on bass; Kenny on drums-aid Charlap, and the three are one smooth unit. Their concerted efforts are best shown off on the meticulously arranged “Cool,” followed by their best straightahead number, “Lucky to Be Me”-those are a good contrast of something polished and something relaxed.

Wisely, Charlap ends Somewhere with a solo treatment of the title tune: a chance to stretch out and get introspective. Disappointingly, given his exquisite taste, the song is much too short.