SARA TOTH – EDITOR
In July 2020, in the middle of the first summer of COVID-19, parts of Pennsylvania were moving into a “green phase” of re-opening, allowing for somewhat limited indoor dining and live music. The Deer Head Inn, a hotel, restaurant and storied jazz club in the small town of Delaware Water Gap, made the decision to re-open, with widely spaced tables, open windows, temperature checks, the works.
The first musical act of Deer Head’s re-opening? Renowned jazz pianist Bill Charlap. It had been more than four months since his last performance, and as he told John Marchese of The New York Times, the hiatus was “definitely the longest I can remember. I’m minus a central part of my life.”
When he took the stage, he told his audience: “There is no substitute for humanity and connection. I wish that I could be closer physically. But I will do everything I can to be as close in every other possible way with the music.”
More than a year later, Charlap is back on the road, with two stops this week at Chautauqua. The first is at 2:30 p.m. Sunday in the Amphitheater with bassist Peter Washington and drummer Kenny Washington — the group, known as the Bill Charlap Trio, was formed in 1997 and is recognized as one of the leading groups of jazz.
Charlap has recorded seven albums for Blue Note Records and received two Grammy Award nominations, for Somewhere: The Songs of Leonard Bernstein and most recently for Bill Charlap Trio: Live at the Village Vanguard.
“Charlap approaches a song the way a lover approaches his beloved. …When he sits down to play, the result is an embrace, an act of possession,” TIME magazine once lauded. “The tune rises, falls, disappears and resurfaces in new forms as Charlap ranges over the keyboard with nimble, crisply swinging lines, subtly layered textures, dense chords and spiky interjections.”
Charlap will again take the Amp stage at 8:15 p.m. Tuesday with celebrated jazz pianist Renee Rosnes — who happens to also be Charlap’s wife — to play songs from their first collaborative album, Double Portrait, which is a set of four-hand piano duets.