Charlap quintet plays with personality at Skidmore

Bill Charlap and his quintet played at Skidmore’s packed Zankel Music Center on Tuesday; every note

SARATOGA SPRINGS — Bill Charlap calls his new album “Notes from New York”; but every note the pianist and his quintet played at Skidmore’s packed Zankel Music Center on Tuesday seemed painted in the many rich hues of New York City small-band jazz, from blues to swing to bop to the polite and polished modern.

While Charlap added horns to his trio — saxophonist Houston Person and cornetist Warren Vache played at mics before drummer Kenny Washington and bassist Peter Washington — the effect seemed multiplicative rather than additive. They stretched both the harmonic and rhythmic possibilities of Charlap’s longstanding/outstanding crew.

Charlap started the possibilities-stretching solo, opening alone in a blitz through “Tea for Two” so bold it served notice that standard tunes would receive way-above-standard re-imaginings. The Washingtons joined for fluid deconstructions of “I’ll Remember April” and “All Through the Night” before Person and Vache, suit-and-tied like the trio, came on to dive deep into bebop with “Blues Walk,” a cool romp capped by Vache’s mock-grudging praise of Charlap’s explosive solo. Vache seemed to assess Charlap’s work, then gave a shaky hand “that was kinda OK” wave. Charlap cracked up.

The better-then-expert 90-minute proceedings were much more than kinda OK, with strength at every position, suave old-school smoothness and crisp cohesion. Humor and occasional hot risky riffs kept things from being too perfect, though; as the quintet played with such personality that everything felt warmly human.

Vache especially made every note seem effortless; his mood of relaxed fun infecting band and fans. In a droll stroll through Benny Carter’s “Rock Me to Sleep,” Vache seemed to ask Charlap who’d solo next, Charlap shrugged a casual “I don’t know”; Peter Washington glanced over, caught the exchange, climbed aboard the melody and took it for a ride.

Formidable fun at full strength, the band divided and conquered in cozy duets. Charlap and Vache injected wry quotes into “Pick Yourself Up,” Charlap and Kenny Washington – a lion, all night – ripped through “After You’ve Gone,” challenging the speed limit, and Person showed off his devastating lyricism in “Daydream,” Charlap supporting and coloring tastefully. One-horn quartet numbers followed; Vache suavely confident in “You and the Night and the Music,” Person eloquent in “You Taught My Heart to Sing.”

All the players made everything look deceptively easy, their mastery worn lightly and with veterans’ grace. The augmented band balanced beautifully, a testament to stalwart, self-effacing support by Charlap and the two Washingtons while Person and Vache added ideas, chops and personality.

Charlap’s first-class quintet offering on Tuesday was the third event in Skidmore’s Jazz Institute series; it continues with the Skidmore Faculty Septet tonight and the Jazz Institute Student Concert on Friday.

Reach Michael Hochanadel at [email protected]

Categories: Entertainment, News

Leave a Reply