Pianist Bill Charlap has become one of the finest — and most prolific — interpreters of standards in jazz today. Securing the coveted position as pianist for hard-bopping Phil Woods, and gracing countless straight-ahead recordings (as well as a Steely Dan CD) over the past decade, he has still found time to develop his trio over the course of 12 releases. On “Somewhere,” Charlap concentrates his thoughtful approach on the songs of Leonard Bernstein. More than most Broadway composers, Bernstein integrated jazz rhythms and sensibilities into his songs, even sitting in with jazz groups on occasion.
Charlap, whose father, Moose Charlap, was a well-known Broadway composer and whose mother was a vocalist, soaked up the world of musical song as a child. What distinguishes Charlap’s interpretations from other Bernstein covers is the depth of feeling for the tunes. He extends the recognizable melodies over impressive solos that sound like lost sections of the originals. Rather than relying too easily on a swinging beat, Charlap explores the emotional complexities of the tunes with deft sensitivity. His personal voice sounds more mature than ever, especially on tunes from “West Side Story” — the reflective “Somewhere” and the lively Latinesque “America.” His endlessly inventive lyricism makes this his best work to date.
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