Bill Charlap

Street Of Dreams
(Blue Note)

Bill Charlap’s restrained elegance, bell-like tone, understated phrasing and deep sense of swing already set him apart from the pack, but his repertoire is a special bonus. How many other piano jazz trio programs forego Monk, Bud and bossa, but include a couple of seldom-played show tunes? Charlap’s first album since 2017 with his seamless, 25-year-old trio featuring the (unrelated) Washingtons — Peter (bass) and Kenny (drums) — Street Of Dreams is a dandy.

The Grammy-winning pianist’s skill as both a soloist who artfully varies his attack, dynamics and phrase-lengths and as an ensemble player, who can suddenly pull back to let the bassist and drummer share the space, are on full display here. The album kicks off with Dave Brubeck’s nod to Ellington, “The Duke,” with Charlap navigating the tune’s notorious journey through all 12 keys — first rubato, then launching into lightly snapping swing. Duke’s own tune with Johnny Hodges, “Daydream,” follows, fulfilling the promise of its title.

Bassist Washington walks jauntily through Johnny Green’s “Out Of Nowhere,” offering a lithely melodic solo. Like Fred Astaire, the insouciant star of the 1951 film Royal Wedding from which “You’re All The World To Me” is drawn, Charlap hovers a half-inch above the dance floor à la Oscar Peterson.

The pianist makes you feel the youth of an ingenue on “I’ll Know” (from Guys and Dolls), as well as the mature gravitas of the Bergmans’ classic “What Are You Doing For The Rest Of Your Life.” Kenny Burrell’s obscure “Your Host” gets a swinging turn, and the trio closes with “Street Of Dreams” that evokes the feel of Ahmad Jamal.

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