Full performer name: Bill Charlap/Jay Leonhart/Bill Stewart.
The relaxed tone of this CD is set from the beginning, with Bill Charlap's quiet, spare solo reading of "The Shadow of Your Smile." On the next track, the others join in for some mellow and friendly swinging: Jay Leonhart's big, fat bass grounds Charlap's dreaminess, while Bill Stewart, who's left his sticks at home for this date, brushes up the tempo with subtlety and style. This release offers thoughtful solo piano (also on "Mona Lisa"), slow, romantic ballads ("How Long Has This Been Going On," "Paper Moon"), and tasty mid-tempo treatments ("As Time Goes By," "When Your Lover Has Gone"). While there are no barnburners, the heat rises to a steady simmer on "You'd Be So Nice..." and "How High the Moon," where the players are audibly enjoying themselves. Leonhart's solos are consistently interesting, drizzled with wit, and the ever-lyrical Charlap provides rarely heard verses to six of these nine classic tunes. The CD will lease those who like their jazz served straight up and pared down to essentials; its simplicity is deceptive, given the level of expertise and feeling throughout. ~ Judith Schlesinger