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Love Is Here To Stay by Bill Charlap & Sandy Stewart

This disc celebrates two jazz "traditions," if you will: the piano/vocal duet, and good old family ties.

While groups of brothers, fathers and sons, and even sisters pop up in jazz lore, the teaming of mother and son occurs rarely. Charlap is one of the hottest young pianists today. Stewart came from more of a pop and cabaret background, having graced the pop charts in the 60s with "My Coloring Book." There are many respectable predecessors for this combination of singer and pianist. The first that springs to mind upon listening to this disc is the celebrated pairing of Tony Bennett and Bill Evans. Another would be the well-loved but more obscure recordings of Irene Kral with Alan Broadbent.

Like Stewart, Bennett came to his pairing with serious pop credentials. However, he had already proven be could swing with the best of them--Count Basie's band, for example--which added a touch of excitement to the session's intimacy. Stewart addresses her set of standards with reverence but little in the way of rhythmic variety or urgency. Kral's discs for the Choice label (which seem to go in and out of print in the US but are worth seeking out) mirror Stewart's emphasis on the song above the singer. And the two share a richness in their tone, especially in the lower registers. But even the late Kral possessed enough of a sense of syncopation, singing just a bit behind the beat, lengthening or shortening the melodic line, to make her music more interesting to the jazz (as opposed to cabaret) listener.

All this is not to say that Love Is Here to Stay lacks its charms. Stewart's voice, while showing a bit more vibrato than some might like, combines that lower richness with a a sweet upper range that brings to mind the more intimate moments of Morgana King. In the best cabaret tradition, she delivers the lyrics to this set of ballads with full-on conviction. (One misstep: turning the usually sprightly "Dancing on the Ceiling" into more of a slow walk robs it of its magic.)

The choice of songs here is a treat as well, highlights by two tunes from Charlap's dad (and Stewart's husband), the late Moose Charlap: "Here I Am in Love Again" and "I'll Never Go Home Anymore." Those two and another rarely-heard gem, "Where Is Me?," provide great counterpart to the more familiar songs by Berlin, Arlen, Gershwin, Porter et al. Charlap, while a bit more subdued than usual, is a joy to listen to. Having accompanied Bennett (as well as Shirley Horn) for his "Stardust" disc a few years back, he must have kept the Evans disc in mind for this session. Like a dutiful son, he never overshadows his mom, but adds flourishes here and there to emphasize the beauty of the song and the singer.

Love is Here to Stay will find more fans in the cabaret than jazz crowd. But it's a worthwhile addition to Charlap's discography and a tidy lesson in the art of singing today.

Additional Info

  • Artist / Group Name: Bill Charlap & Sandy Stewart
  • CD Title: Love Is Here To Stay
  • Genre: Jazz Vocals
  • Year Released: 2005
  • Record Label: Blue Note
  • Rating: Three Stars
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