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Plays George Gershwin: The American Soul (2005)

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Nicholas Payton

Bill Charlap, a versatile pianist based in swing who is also a longtime member of the Phil Woods Quintet, pays tribute to the great George Gershwin throughout this likable set. Although some of the ten Gershwin songs are slightly modernized, the music is very much in the tradition. There are up to four horns on some numbers, with the best individual moments coming from veteran tenor Frank Wess on "How Long Has This Been Going On" (sounding a bit like Paul Gonsalves), trombonist Slide Hampton on "A Foggy Day," and altoist Woods whenever he plays. Charlap's longtime trio with bassist Peter Washington and drummer Kenny Washington is featured on "Who Cares?," and Charlap takes the brief closing "Soon" as an unaccompanied solo. Nothing all that revolutionary or revelatory occurs but the music is pleasing overall, swinging and creative within its boundaries. ~ Scott Yanow