Bill Charlap Trio offers evening of Bernstein at Fairfield University's Quick Center

Bill Charlap Trio offers evening of Bernstein at Fairfield University's Quick Center

Image: Bill Charlap The swinging sounds of top jazz pianist Bill Charlap and his stellar trio will fill Fairfield University's Regina A. Quick Center for the Arts on Saturday, April 1, at 8 p.m. "Somewhere," the evening's program, features the sophisticated yet inviting music of Leonard Bernstein, including many tunes featured on the trio's Grammy-nominated album of the same name.

Bill Charlap was surrounded by music from an early age: His father, Moose Charlap, was a respected Broadway composer and his mother, Sandy Stewart, sang with Benny Goodman and co-starred on TV's "The Perry Como Show." So it was no surprise that he began playing piano as a youngster.

Charlap began his performing career in the 1980s when he joined baritone saxophonist Gerry Mulligan's quintet, following that with a stint with alto saxophonist Phil Woods' band. In between gigs, Charlap served as the musical director of "Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil: A Celebration of Johnny Mercer," part of the JVC Jazz Festival in New York, and later took the revue on the road.

By 1994, he had also forged a solo recording career, and released several albums alone and with bassist Peter Washington and drummer Kenny Washington, two artists one reviewer dubbed "arguably the best rhythm section happening in jazz today." Together, they've recorded four albums that heavily feature Great American Songbook standards, including 2004's "Somewhere," which wowed both critics and listeners alike.

The composer's music and the trio's romantic and rigorous style seem to blend seamlessly.

"Bernstein and Charlap: What an inspired pairing," said the Jazz Times.

Charlap has gained a reputation as a champion of great jazz standards, able to infuse them with a new energy while being true to their original essence.

"At a time when young jazz artists are creating bold new music in large quantities, Charlap's bop classicism would seem to put him in the 'purist' or traditionalist camp. Fair enough, but this is a purism that works," wrote David Adler for All About Jazz.

Charlap's endlessly inventive lyricism has garnered him raves in recent years. In 2003, he received the Pianist of the Year Jazz Award from the Jazz Journalists Association and he was named Outstanding Jazz Soloist at Manhattan's Night Life Awards in both 2003 and 2004.

Two years ago, Charlap joined his mother for an engagement at the storied Algonquin in New York, receiving the Top Jazz Duo Bistro Award for their memorable stay. The same year, the trio opened Jazz at Lincoln Center's new venue Dizzy's Club Coca-Cola in the Time-Warner Building and, through Jazz at Lincoln Center, Charlap put together a series of concerts honoring the true jazz greats from Jerome Kern and Harold Arlen to the Gershwin brothers and Cole Porter.

Last year, Charlap succeeded Dick Hyman as artistic director of Jazz in July at the 92 nd Street Y's Tisch Center for the Arts. His two most recent releases are "Bill Charlap Plays George Gershwin - The American Soul" and "Love is Here to Stay," a CD of ballads he recorded with his mother.

The Trio's April 1 performance is part of the Quick Center's ongoing Leonard Bernstein Festival. Other upcoming events include screenings of "On the Waterfront" and "Candide," both of which feature Bernstein scores, and lectures on Bernstein's influence on American Classical music and musical theater.

Tickets are $30. For tickets, call the Quick Center box office at (203) 254-4010 or toll free at 1-877-ARTS-396. For more information, visit

Posted On: 03-08-2006 10:03 AM

Volume: 38 Number: 188