This year marks Bill Charlap’s eighth summer as artistic director of 92nd Street Y’s Jazz in July summer festival. One of the world’s premier jazz pianists, Mr. Charlap has performed with many leading artists of our time, ranging from Phil Woods and Tony Bennett to Gerry Mulligan and Wynton Marsalis. He is known for his interpretations of American popular songs and has recorded albums featuring the music of Hoagy Carmichael, Leonard Bernstein and George Gershwin. Time magazine wrote, “Bill Charlap approaches a song the way a lover approaches his beloved…no matter how imaginative or surprising his take on a song is, he invariably zeroes in on its essence.”
In 1997, Mr. Charlap formed the Bill Charlap Trio with bassist Peter Washington and drummer Kenny Washington (no relation), now recognized as one of the leading groups in jazz. In 2000, he signed with Blue Note Records and has since received two Grammy nominations, for Somewhere: The Songs of Leonard Bernstein and, most recently, The Bill Charlap Trio: Live at the Village Vanguard . The Trio performs all over the world; their New York engagements include regular appearances at Jazz at Lincoln Center, and they will return to the Village Vanguard for a two-week run this fall. In 2009, Mr. Charlap was pianist and musical director for The Blue Note 7, an all-star jazz septet celebrating the legacy of Blue Note Records on its 70th anniversary. The septet performed a 50-city tour and released the CD, Mosaic: A Celebration of Blue Note Records .
Mr. Charlap’s experience as concert producer extends beyond Jazz in July . In the mid-1990s, he was the musical director of “Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil, A Celebration of Johnny Mercer,” part of New York’s JVC Jazz Festival. He has produced several concerts for Jazz at Lincoln Center and an evening of George Gershwin’s music at the Hollywood Bowl.
Born in New York City, Mr. Charlap began playing the piano at age three. His father was Broadway composer Moose Charlap, whose credits include Peter Pan, and his mother is singer Sandy Stewart, who appeared on the Ed Sullivan and Perry Como shows and earned a Grammy nomination for her recording of “My Coloring Book.” In 2005, Mr. Charlap and Ms. Stewart released the acclaimed CD, Love Is Here to Stay (Blue Note). This past November, they made their eighth appearance together at The Oak Room at the Algonquin Hotel, and this past February, they headlined a concert on the 92Y Jazz series.
Mr. Charlap is married to renowned jazz pianist Renee Rosnes. The two artists often collaborate in a duo piano setting. In 2010, Mr. Charlap and Ms. Rosnes released Double Portrait, on the Blue Note label, recorded at 92nd Street Y.
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One of the most successful big bands in history, The Legendary Count Basie Orchestra was created in 1935 in Kansas City as the Barons of Rhythm. Within a few years, it had moved to New York as the Count Basie Orchestra and was producing hits like “One O’Clock Jump” and “Jumpin’ at the Woodside.” After a post-war hiatus of a few years, Count Basie reassembled it in 1952, and since then, it has toured the world and won numerous awards, including 17 Grammys. It can be heard on dozens of soundtracks and has regularly appeared on film and television. With the death of Count Basie in 1984, the Orchestra has continued under a series of leaders and is currently under the direction of Dennis Mackrel. Its website is basieband.org
The Legendary Count Basie Orchestra
Dennis Mackrel, director
Marshall McDonald, lead alto
Cleave Guyton, alto
Shelley Carrol, first tenor
Doug Miller, second tenor
John Williams, baritone
Mike Williams, lead
Dave Keim, lead
Marcus McLaurine, bass
Marion Felder, drums
Bobby Floyd, piano
Will Matthews, guitar
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Named an NEA Jazz Master in 2007, Frank Wess was born in Kansas City, MO. From 1953-64, he was a member of the Count Basie Orchestra, playing alto and tenor sax and introducing the flute as a solo jazz instrument. He also played with the Toshiko Akiyoshi Jazz Orchestra, New York Jazz Quartet, Dameronia and his own groups, including the quintet “Two Franks” with Frank Foster. Mr. Wess has also been in constant demand as a sideman and studio artist; he can be heard on the soundtracks of several Woody Allen films, and he appears in Allen’s Sweet and Lowdown . As a leader, his recordings include the 2010 Once Is not Enough (La Beth) with his nonet. Earlier this year, Dizzy’s Club Coca-Cola held a 90th birthday celebration for Mr. Wess, featuring The Dizzy Gillespie All-Star Big Band and others. His website is frankwess.org.
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Seven-string jazz guitar legend John “Bucky” Pizzarelli got his first break at age 17 with the Vaughn Monroe Orchestra. As a staff musician at NBC, Mr. Pizzarelli played in the bands of Kate Smith, Jack Paar and Johnny Carson. He has traveled the world with legends like Benny Goodman, Benny Carter, Zoot Sims and George Shearing. He has also performed with orchestras and has played at the White House three times. Mr. Pizzarelli has made 30 solo albums and hundreds of recordings with artists like Ray Charles, Rosemary Clooney, Michael Feinstein and his two sons, John and Martin. He has received two honorary degrees and has written three books on his technique. Last year, 92Y’s Lyrics & Lyricists devoted a show to Mr. Pizzarelli on his 85th birthday, and he was inducted into the New Jersey Hall of Fame.
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Peter Washington has a discography of more than 450 recordings. Born in Los Angeles, Mr. Washington played classical bass as a teen and majored in English literature at UC Berkeley, where he became interested in jazz. He was invited by Art Blakey to join the Jazz Messengers in New York. From there, Mr. Washington became part of two of jazz’s most celebrated trios: the Tommy Flanagan Trio, and for the past 14 years, the Bill Charlap Trio. Mr. Washington’s freelance work roster is a “who’s who” of jazz, including Dizzy Gillespie, Clark Terry, Milt Jackson, Johnny Griffin, Bobby Hutcherson and the Carnegie Hall Jazz Band. In 2009, Mr. Washington was part of The Blue Note 7, a septet formed in honor of the 70th anniversary of Blue Note Records. The group recorded the album Mosaic and toured the US in 2009.
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Dennis Mackrel is a highly respected drummer, composer and arranger. A native of Nebraska, he moved to New York when he was 19 years old, and then at age 20, Mr. Mackrel joined the Count Basie Orchestra on the personal recommendation of vocalist Joe Williams; he was the last drummer to be hired by Mr. Basie himself. Equally at home in big bands or small groups, Mr. Mackrel’s performance credits also include stints with the Vanguard Jazz Orchestra, the Hank Jones Trio, the Dizzy Gillespie All-Star Big Band, Tony Bennett, Quincy Jones, the George Shearing Quintet, the Manhattan Symphony Jazz Orchestra and the McCoy Tyner Big Band, whose Grammy Award-winning CDs include Mr. Mackrel’s arrangements. In September 2010, Mr. Mackrel returned to the Count Basie Orchestra as its leader. His website is dennismackrelmusic.com.
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