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January 20, 2011

NYU Jazz Interview Series: Bill Charlap

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I became a fan of Bill’s piano playing when I first heard him perform with sax legend Phil Woods. As a follower of Woods’ bands since the late 70s, I was familiar with many of his recordings with Hal Galper and Jim McNeely on piano. Both pianists made the group sound different, as did Bill when he took over the piano chair. As I was born and raised in the midwest, I am always fascinated to speak with musicians who grow up in New York City. As a native New Yorker, Bill was surrounded by a musical family, and says he doesn’t remember a time when he didn’t play piano, as there was always one in his home. With relatives in both the jazz and theatre worlds, Bill was certain to develop a head start on building an encyclopedic repertoire of American popular standards, especially through the guidance of his mom Sandy Stewart and cousin Dick Hyman. I had never met Bill prior to the interview and found him instantly disarming and pleasant. I made sure to dress sharp for the interview, as I have only seen him perform in elegant attire. As he approached me wearing jeans and a sports jacket; he was clearly put off by my Ralph Lauren threads. I told he that when I interviewed Ron Carter last year, he called me a few days before his interview stating, “I’ll have you know that I will be elegantly dressed for your interview, and I expect the same from you.” I told Bill, at that point, Ron put he fear of the fashion god in me. So I was a bit overdressed for Bill’s interview. Blame it on Ron Carter! Bill is most articulate and passionate about his craft as I discovered when he invited me to his performance that evening at the Village Vanguard, where his trio swung their elegant suits off, as I was now dressed in my jeans and a sports jacket. Go figure.

- Dave Schroeder, NYU Jazz Interview Series Host



Recommended:
Live at the Village Vanguard

Produced by NYU Jazz Studies Dept. and Jazz Online and in association with Barnes & Noble, The NYU Steinhardt Jazz Series features interviews with the jazz greats. The series is hosted by Dave Schroeder, Director of Jazz Studies at NYU Steinhardt.


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