Somewhere - The Songs Of Leonard Bernstein

REVIEW by Willard Manus

Bill Charlap has been called the Diana Krall of jazz instrumentalists, thanks to his sophistication, artistry and accessibility. Born into a musical family, he has played piano nearly all his life--Charlap is 38--first as a sideman for the likes of Gerry Mulligan and Tommy Flanagan, now as the leader of his own trio (with bassist Peter Washington and drummer Kenny Washiongton, no relation). As evidenced by his latest Blue Note CD, SOMEWHERE--THE SONGS OF LEONARD BERNSTEIN--and by his recent appearance at Catalina Bar & Grill, Charlap has become a master on his instrument, a breathtakingly original stylist right up there with Monk, Tatum and Ahmad Jamal.

Charlap can go from the deeply felt solo introspection of West Side Story's "Somewhere" to a jaunty version of "America" to a richly harmonic interpretation of John Lewis' "Milestones" with effortless ease and proficiency. Though he and his sidekicks favor minimalistic, quiet playing--giving each other time to go deep, embellish, listen and respond to each other--they can also swing like mad ("Cool") and become hard-boppish too ("It's Wonderful").

Bernstein has never sounded better in a jazz vein thanks to Charlap's virtuosic way with his showtunes.