REVIEW: Bill Charlap Quartet at Pizza Express

L-R: Bill Charlap (foreground) with Mark Hodgson,
Colin Oxley and Stephen Keogh
Photo credit: Melody McLaren 


Bill Charlap Quartet 
(Pizza Express Dean Street, 9 November 2017. First night of two. Review by Sebastian Scotney)

The more closely I listen, the more I hear going on in Bill Charlap's playing. My ear was caught by what he was doing with Darn that Dream last night. He had inserted a little gremlin into the tune and was letting it run loose all over the place. The melody of Darn that Dream starts with rising fourth/ falling major third, so this gremlin answering phrase was (I think) the inversion: falling fourth/rising major third, and gradually it was taking the tune over. This wizardry, alchemy, in-the-moment expression of genius is wonderful. But these things are there and then they are gone, and sadly, if one's mind is wandering to think about - say - tooth extractions or (even more) painful people, one misses more than one actually hears.

Last night Bill Charlap was in very sympathetic company for the first of two nights at Pizza Express Dean Street, the first night falling just outside the EFG London Jazz Festival, and the second, with exactly the same personnel (Colin Oxley, Mark Hodgson and Stephen Keogh) and performing a tribute to an important and sadly missed figure in jazz, Irish guitarist Louis Stewart, falling within it.

I was also enjoying the exquisite tone of Oxley's guitar, the attentive less-is-more mastery of Hodgson - (also caught superbly in Melody McLaren's lovely photo below) and the unfailing judgment of the right level of volume and tension from Keogh. Charlap is often to be heard in his precisely calibrated and honed trio with the two Washingtons. In this context there is more risk, more need to trust, more watching /listening for signals and reacting to them. But no mistake, this was jazz playing of real class. Catch them tonight.

Mark Hodgson
Photo credit Melody McLaren

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