Bill Charlap with Carol Sloane
January 11, 2017
To call Bill Charlap and Carol Sloane total professionals is damn with faint praise. Both Charlap, a jazz pianist who is a two—time Grammy Award nominee, and Carol Sloane, whose song styling has, if anything, gotten even more deft and luxurious over the years, made the kind of music that doesn’t come out to play very often.
Charlap is a minimalist player whose fingers range over the keyboard with delicacy. The rapport between these two pros was delightful, especially when Chalap led into a song and hear Sloane respond “I don’t have a clue what that is.” Her soft, precise delivery and elegance made the most of favorites like Starlight and Exactly Like You while her special brand of charm and humor enlivened her occasional remarks including when she confessed to feeling nervous in a room full of musicians including jazz singer Helen Merrill. The rendition of Give Me the Simple Life was enhanced when Sloane got to the lyric “give me tomatoes and mashed potatoes” and she interspersed “I don’t eat those anymore.” Amazing as she was in her earlier years, this old hand has gained new skills.
Besides his club performances, Charlap is the artistic director of 92Y’s Jazz in July Festival in NYC who celebrated his 12th anniversary at this post in 2016. He has also produced concerts for Jazz at Lincoln Center, the JVC Jazz Festival and the Hollywood Bowl. Charlap’s father was Broadway composer Moose Charlap; his mother is singer Sandy Stewart so he comes by his musical chops honestly. He touches the keys almost lightly to produce fresh sounding treatments of songs that have been played many times over.
Why Have a Falling Out When We’re Falling in Love was new to me (although it’s an old song recorded by many greats including Ella Fitzgerald) that unleashed both performers’ skill, Charlap playing behind the melody and Sloane skillfully interpreting them in her own special way. He has a subtle ear and a total appreciation of great music, so much so that he makes old music sound new so that listeners find passages they’d never fully heard to appreciate. Sloane’s deft phrasing and toss-it-off quality add to the charm of hearing the two together. Both are virtuosos who draw from the other’s talents. Together the music they made had an hour and a half pass in what seemed like seconds. I could have listened for hours more.