Pin It
.
Favorites

Profile: Bill Charlap 

You might say pianist Bill Charlap was born to play standards. His father, Moose Charlap, was a Broadway composer best known for his iconic musical "Peter Pan." His mother, singer Sandy Stewart, had a major pop hit with "My Coloring Book" in 1963. In recent years, collaborations with her son have revived her career.

Although his father died when he was eight, "I remember everything about him," Charlap says. "He was a very powerful force. He was effervescent in his love of music and his love of life. You could feel his passion for composing. He wasn't a great singer, but he sang his own songs in a gripping way."

Charlap doesn't play many of his father's songs in concert because, "like Stephen Sondheim's songs, the music is theatre music," Charlap says. "Songs like 'I'm Flying' and 'I've Gotta Crow,' they're marvelous in theatre, but they are not standards."

He does perform "I'll Never Go There Anymore," a Moose Charlap tune sited in an article about songs Sondheim wished he had written. As for his mother, "She is one of the great popular singers," Charlap says, "a great song singer who also swings."

Charlap loves the Great American Songbook. He has recorded entire albums of the songs of Jerome Kern, George Gershwin, and Leonard Bernstein. He is reluctant to name favorites but says those three, along with Cole Porter, Harold Arlen and Richard Rodgers, are on his Mount Rushmore.

With the exception of Cole Porter, who wrote words and music, those six are all composers. But Charlap says he always thinks of a song's lyrics as he plays.

"Alan Bergman said, 'The words need to drip off the notes,' " Charlap says. He offers "On a Clear Day," with Alan Jay Lerner's lyrics set to Burton Lane's music, as a perfect example and proceeds to quote an entire verse. "It took him forever to write that lyric," says Charlap. "It's so magnificently connected to the notes."

When asked if anyone today is writing those kinds of classics, Charlap says there are many different ways of writing songs. He offers Donald Fagen and Walter Becker of Steely Dan, and Robert Plant and Jimmy Page of Led Zeppelin, as examples.

One person who does not write songs is Bill Charlap. "I'm not a composer," he says. "I'm 52. If I were a composer, I would have written something significant by now. My wife is a composer; she writes in a very organic way."

He's referring to Renee Rosnes, another superb pianist. The couple famously has two Steinway grand pianos entwined in their living room. They have recorded and played concerts together.

"She's my best friend, my partner, the love of my life, and a musician I respect," Charlap says.

Charlap is not only known as a great interpreter of standards. He paid his dues for years on the road with some of the greatest musicians in jazz including Gerry Mulligan, Benny Carter, Clark Terry and Phil Woods.

He's also worked extensively with singers like Barbra Streisand and Tony Bennett. He won a Grammy Award for his album with Bennett in 2015.

So, is there anything he hasn't done, any musician he'd love to work with? Charlap takes a minute to think and asks if it has to be in this world.

"I'd like to play with Louis Armstrong, and Billy Holliday," says Charlap. But, back in reality, he's still reaching for goals. "What it is I'd like to do with my music is an elusive vision. I can feel it; I can't quite get to it."

Having been enveloped in music all his life, he knows its importance. "We need music because speech is very limited," says Charlap. "Music expresses things we can't put into words."

In This Guide...

    Jazz Fest Guide: Three thoughts for the 2019 CGI Rochester International Jazz Festival

    The 2019 CGI Rochester International Jazz Festival is here, and with it, a whirlwind of concerts by national, international, and local musicians. It can be overwhelming for even the most seasoned jazz fest fan.

    Festival Information

    Everything you need to know about tickets, venues, parking, and how to connect with us to make the most of your Jazz Festival experience.

    Feature: Sasha Berliner Quintet

    When 20-year-old vibraphonist Sasha Berliner received the call, letting her know that she'd won the 2019 LetterOne RISING STARS Jazz Award, she couldn't believe it. "It was a surreal moment," Berliner says.

    The Players: Friday, June 21

    Teagan and the Tweeds | teaganandthetweeds.com 4:30 p.m.: M&T Pavilion - Squeezers Stage (Bluesy rock 'n' roll)

    Profile: Dawn Thomson's Imagine That

    When digging on an artist of two or more disciplines, you have to wonder which one dominates in that artist's heart and head. Dawn Thomson plays it slick and sweet on the guitar.

    The Players: Saturday, June 22

    Ambassadors Jazztet | armyfieldband.com/about/ensembles/jazz-ambassadors 4:30 p.m.: M&T Pavilion – Squeezers Stage | (Straight-ahead jazz)

    Interview: The Honey Smugglers

    Blame it on love. Rochester's The Honey Smugglers is here because it's frontman, Brian MacDonald, fell in love.

    The Players: Sunday, June 23

    Zion Hill Mass Choir 4:30 p.m.: M&T Pavilion – Squeezers Stage | (Gospel)

    Interview: The Willows

    The voices of Krista Deady, Andrea Gregario and Lauren Pedersen are spun gold, blended so well that they come across as one three-tiered voice. The trio known as The Willows makes other vocalists sound like Edith Bunker.

    The Players: Tuesday, June 25

    Soul Passenger | soulpassenger.com 4:30 p.m.: M&T Pavilion – Squeezers Stage | (Rock)

    The Players: Monday, June 24

    Fred Costello | fredcostello.com 4:30 p.m.| M&T Pavilion – Squeezers Stage | (B-3 organ jazz)

    Profile: Harold Mabern

    When Harold Mabern was growing up in Memphis, he had no ambition to become a jazz pianist. "I didn't choose it; it chose me," says Mabern, a self-taught musician.

    Feature: Jeff Goldblum & the Mildred Snitzer Orchestra

    When you're known for being chased by dinosaurs and being turning into a giant fly, it's inevitable that you'll have to do the rounds: going on press junkets, shaking babies, kissing hands, and hocking your latest wares -- in this case, a jazz recording. Jeff Goldblum, the actor and Hollywood bon vivant found himself on the Graham Norton Show about a year ago, doing the standard media song-and-dance for the movie "Thor Ragnarok."

    The Players: Wednesday, June 26

    Herb Smith Freedom Trio | herbtrumpet.com 4:30 p.m.: M&T Pavilion – Squeezers Stage | (Straight-ahead jazz)

    Feature: George Coleman Quartet

    In the early 1960's, after saxophonist George Coleman had earned his way to the top of the jazz world playing with Booker Little, Max Roach and Slide Hampton, he was tapped by Miles Davis to play in one of the greatest quintets in the history of jazz. Coleman recorded four seminal albums with Davis: "Seven Steps to Heaven," "My Funny Valentine, "Four," and "Miles Davis In Europe."

    The Players: Thursday, June 27

    The Buddhahood | thebuddhahood.com 4:30 p.m.: M&T Pavilion – Squeezers Stage | (Jam-band, world music)

    The Players: Friday, June 28

    Kansas Smitty's House Band | kansassmittys.com 5:30 p.m. & 7:30 p.m.: Geva Theatre Center – Wilson Stage | (Straight-ahead jazz)

    Interview: Cha Wa

    The music of New Orleans band Cha Wa is a party in itself, a joyful collision of brass band music, funk, soul, and Mardi Gras Indian music and culture. The group is led by singer J'Wan Boudreaux and drummer Joe Gelini, both of whom learned from the preeminent musician Monk Boudreaux, Big Chief of the Mardi Gras Indian tribe Golden Eagles and J'Wan's grandfather.

    The Players: Saturday, June 29

    Acoustic Alchemy | acousticalchemy.co.uk 5:30 p.m. & 7:30 p.m.: Geva Theatre Center – Wilson Stage | (Smooth jazz)

    Jazz Fest 2019: CITY's Daily Jazz Blogs

    The 2019 CGI Rochester International Jazz Festival runs from Friday, June 21, through Saturday, June 29, and CITY Newspaper will be out every night of the festival, covering multiple shows. Check back each day for reviews, photos and video of each nights festivities.

Comments


Comments are closed.

Readers also liked…

Browse Listings

Submit an event

This Week's Issue

Cover Story:
He won. What does Adam Bello do now?
Answer: He tries to do what no Democrat has done in over 30 years - form a county government in less than two months read more ...

Tweets @RocCityNews

© 2019 City Newspaper.

Website powered by Foundation.