Bill Charlap Trio with Freddie Cole to ring in Jazz SLC's new year

By Jeff Metcalf

For the Deseret News

Published: Thursday, Jan. 3 2013 5:00 a.m. MST

SALT LAKE CITY — Gordon Hanks, founder of Jazz SLC, is starting off the New Year by bringing two powerhouses of jazz to the stage at 7:30 p.m. Saturday, Jan. 5, for the first concert of the series' 2013 season.

The Bill Charlap Trio, featuring Charlap on the piano, Kenny Washington on drums and Peter Washington on bass, will join legendary jazz pianist, conductor and vocalist Freddie Cole at the Capitol Theatre, 50 W. 200 South.

“This is exactly the way we wanted to kick off the season," Hanks said. "We’ve got two of the best musicians in the business opening up for us. The Bill Charlap Trio is currently considered the very best trio in New York and, possibly, the country."

Hanks said the trio has "deep family connections to some of the most important music of the 20th and 21st centuries." Charlap's parents were "Moose" Charlap, a composer and songwriter, and Sandy Stewart, a singer for Perry Como and Eddie Fisher.

Add to the mix Charlap's wife, Renee Rosnes. "They are terrific performers and when they play together it is something very, very special," Hanks said. "The trio would be more than enough, but you add Freddie Cole into the mix and you’ll hear the influence of his brother, Nat King Cole, and Natalie Cole.”

Charlap himself spoke about his parents' influence on his music. “It was pretty hard not to be ... musical when (my) dad was ‘Moose’ Charlap and (my) mother was Sandy Stewart. My parents brought me into a world of music: Charlie Parker, Oscar Peterson, George Shearing, John Coltrane and all the usual suspects. I was always interested in music and learned to play by ear before I took formal piano instruction. If you’re a full-time musician, which I am lucky to be, you are always studying music, inventing, rephrasing and experimenting.”

Charlap was modest when speaking of his own accomplishments, but he was effusive in his praise of his longtime trio members, Kenny Washington and Peter Washington (no relation): “These guys have been with me for over 15 years and you’d have a difficult time finding anybody better than them. They have enormous talent and we’ve been making some great music for a long time.”

Charlap is known for his "cool" arrangements. Clearly in control on stage, the trio exudes a sense of being engaged in a musical conversation. It’s almost as if three good friends are having lunch and talking with each other, just in the the language of jazz.

“There is a depth to jazz that is unique to any form of music," Charlap said. "So it never gets tiring, no matter what project I’m involved in. I’m still pushed by the things that have always pushed me. For example, my next project is called ‘The Birth of Cool,’ which is an exploration of an idea I’ve had about the real beginnings of ‘cool’ jazz. I have the luxury and time to explore these questions.”

When asked what the audience might expect to hear at the concert, Charlap laughed. “That’s a great question. We never have a fixed set. Once we rehearse we’ll build our set. This is our first time with the jazz series in Salt Lake and it will be good.”

If you go:

When: Saturday, Jan. 5, 2013, 7:30 p.m.

Where: Capitol Theatre, 50 W. 200 South, Salt Lake City

Tickets: Call ArtTix at 801-355-ARTS

Jeff Metcalf is a professor of English at the University of Utah and an avid jazz fan.

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