Bill Charlap solo piano: Tradition, invention and wit

Bill Charlap performing live in the Jazz24/KPLU Seattle studios on October 24. Credit Justin Steyer

It’s no wonder that pianist, Bill Charlap, loves the music that has come to be called The Great American Songbook—the songs of great Tin Pan Alley composers such as Jerome Kern, George Gershwin and Irving Berlin.

He grew up with it.

Born and raised in New York, Bill’s father, Moose Charlap, was a Broadway composer and his mother, Sandy Stewart, is a self-described ‘popular singer with jazz overtones.’

In this performance/interview with jazz host, Abe Beeson, Bill takes 2 songs from that fabled Songbook and uses them to illustrate how a jazz musician can honor tradition and still be on the cutting edge of improvisational invention.

And as you listen, try to identify all of the other songs that Bill quotes as he finds his way to the heart of the song he’s playing.  Underlying Bill Charlap’s technical brilliance and great emotional focus is a musical wit that is second to none.

You can also find our Studio Sessions available as a video podcast in iTunes.  The link can be found here:


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