Distant Star

Bill Charlap

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Distant Star Review

by Ken Dryden

Bill Charlap attracted the attention of Phil Woods during a 1994 jazz cruise, so it's no surprise that the veteran saxophonist snapped him up the second there was a vacancy on the piano bench in his quintet. This trio session, with bassist Sean Smith and drummer Bill Stewart, gives one a great opportunity to hear the inventiveness, passion, and intense ability to swing that makes Charlap one of the top musicians of his generation. The program is a cut above the usual play list, starting with two brilliant interpretations of standards, including a dancing "While We're Young" and an introspective "Last Night When We Were Young." Jim Hall's "Bon Ami" is not one of his better-known works, but Charlap's crisp approach to this soft speaking tune should grab anyone's attention. The pianist contributed the tense post-bop miniature "Starlight," while "Distant Star" is a brief, very captivating free improvisation by the trio. In addition to his superb work on bass, Smith composed the subtle but twisting theme "'39 World's Fair," while Stewart's brushwork is an important ingredient to this highly recommended CD. An additional bonus is provided by Phil Woods' hip, very enthusiastic liner notes.

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