BILL Charlap does many things well as a musician, but excels at leading a piano trio.
And the trio that performed Sunday in the season-closing concerts of the Izzy Asper Jazz Performances series -- Charlap, bassist Peter Washington and drummer Kenny Washington -- is one of the best in jazz.
Charlap is an inventive, nimble pianist and a perfect choice for a Sunday afternoon concert of Cole Porter compositions, one of three performed Saturday and Sunday.
The bassist and drummer are easily two of the most sympathetic accompanists for a pianist (just ask jazz pianist Benny Green with whom they also perform and record).
Who better then to accompany guest singer Freddy Cole than a trio so sensitive.
The concert opened with a trio performance and the musicians made it clear right from the start they are a skilled outfit on Dream Dancing, illustrating their almost telepathic interplay. With Cole's first number, I Concentrate on You, you hear the unmistakable family voice (Freddy is a younger brother of Nat "King" Cole).
But the 81-year-old vocalist has a slightly raspier delivery than his famous sibling and maintains good chops at his age.
When he sings classics from the Cole Porter Songbook, such as I Love All of You, What Is This Thing Called Love? and I Love Paris, he captures the essence of the subject and of Porter's delightful lyrics and tunes.
A duet with the pianist on Miss Otis Regrets was a standout; Cole nailed the irony of the story as Charlap provided the perfect musical base.
Cole is also an excellent pianist, and Charlap vacated the piano bench for a few turns, such the poignant Where Can I Go Without You?
You'd Be So Nice To Come Home To, with Charlap back at the piano, was simply a great tune with great singing and great trio play. Porter's songs have been performed and recorded countless times, but in the right hands they still can wrench a listener's heart.