Music: Getting Down Deep into It

Jazz pianist Bill Charlap is breaking through as a nonpareil interpreter of American pop classics

Jazz pianist Bill Charlap approaches a song the way a lover approaches his beloved. He wants to know its origins, its shape, its moods. He wants to view it from every angle--melody, harmony, lyrics, verse. He even wants to hear about its romantic history--what other improvisers have done with it. When he sits down to play, the result is an embrace, an act of possession. The tune rises, falls, disappears and resurfaces in new forms as Charlap ranges over the keyboard with nimble, crisply swinging lines, subtly layered textures, dense chords and spiky interjections. But no matter how imaginative or surprising...

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