|In his duets with tenor saxophonist Houston Person on You Taught My Heart to Sing, it's as if Bill Charlap is dreaming he's Bill Evans. Without the wiggle of Charlap's arpeggios on the quietly stunning "Where Is Love" (an urchin's ballad from Lionel Bart's Oliver! twice misidentified as Roberta Flack/Donny Hathaway's "Where Is the Love" in the track listings), the lineage might never have occurred to me—it certainly hasn't been obvious on Charlap's sedate Blue Notes, or how could I have missed it? You want more evidence? Consider the melodic tolling reminiscent of Evans's "Peace Piece" on "Where Is Love," the curving grace of Charlap's theme statement on the title track (a McCoy Tyner ballad worthy of Sondheim), and the spareness and depth of his voicings behind Person throughout. For all of that, the strongest likeness is in Charlap's rhythmic self-sufficency: Forgoing bass and drums has lured many a pianist into fussy rhapsody, but here's one instance where it reveals unsuspected strength. I'm guessing Charlap finally feels comfortable exposing Evans's influence because he's fully absorbed it. Never at all imitative, he's announcing that he's entered the same league.
You Taught My Heart to Sing is the most buoyant program of tenor-and-piano duets since Zoot Sims and Jimmy Rowles's 1977 If I'm Lucky, whose opening number was Buddy Johnson's "(I Wonder) Where Our Love Has Gone," Person and Charlap's closer. Torchy ballads like this beauty introduced by Arthur Prysock with Johnson's orchestra in 1948 still tempt Charlap to cliché (Evans knew to avoid them), and the Person original that precedes it shows he's still unsure of himself on the blues. Fortunately, the gently emotive Person, to whom such material is second nature, is there to save the day. F. Davis