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William C. Altreuter
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Monday, May 17, 2004

To Bill Charlap, at the Albright Knox Art of Jazz series over the weekend. Speed to burn, and a lot of technique. Dick Judelsohn said he was something like Tommy Flanagan, which is apt; I was reminded somewhat of Oscar Peterson. Charlap is touring in support of a CD of Leonard Bernstein interpretations, so there was a lot of that, which presented an interesting issue: Bernstein often composed jazz-influenced material, but the swing is built in-- there is not a lot of room for improvisation. Numbers like "Cool", or "Jump" sound great, but where do you go with them? Nowhere much, is the answer, so although I'm sure it's fun to play, if all it is about is technique, something seems missing. It wasn't all Bernstein: I'd say the best thing he played was an extended "Blue Skies" that was simply terrific. In all, an interesting piano trio contrast The Bad Plus. In a lot of ways someone like Charlap is kind of an anachronism, but, on the other hand, the tradition within jazz that he represents is a perfectly valid continuing strain of the music, and certainly worthwhile.

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