1. Route 66
2. All the Things You Are
3. Lush Life
4. On the Street Where You Live
5. Alone Together
6. Sweet Lorraine
7. Like Someone in Love
8. You Must Believe in Spring
9. On the Sunny Side of the Street
11. My Ideal
Charlie Wood - Piano, vocals
Jacqui Dankworth - Vocals (track 5)
Memphis-born pianist Charlie Wood may be better known as husband to singer Jacqui Dankworth, who actually produced this album and guests on one track. Charlie was visiting his parents in Memphis when Ward Archer of Archer Records asked Charlie if he would record an album - which he did in three days. Charlie has already made seven record albums but this is the first consisting of jazz standards. Charlie accompanies his own voice at the piano.
My heart sank at the sight of Route 66 - a song which has been performed so often as to seem impregnable to any kind of innovation. Yet Charlie makes the number fresh with his unusual delivery: singing the lyrics in what may seem to be out of sync with the piano. Yet he always brings music and lyrics together when it matters. It's an original and intriguing way of delivering songs and it keeps the listener on the edge of his/her seat.
Charlie's unique style refreshes songs as familiar as Sweet Lorraine and All the Things You Are. The latter starts with an introduction which unexpectedly quotes a bebop classic. He takes Billy Strayhorn's Lush Life at his own pace, meditating on the poignant words. On the Street Where You Live has some of the irreverent approach of Jamie Cullum, and Charlie scats along with the piano.
You might have expected Alone Together - the duet between Mr and Mrs Wood - to be a highlight of the album, but it seems rather strait-laced compared to the vocal fireworks which Charlie detonates on other tracks. It is followed by a humorously disrespectful Sweet Lorraine which begins with parodic false chords. His piano solo between the vocals is mischievous but, like many of the solos on the album, drives forward at an unstoppable rate.
Perhaps my favourite track is Michel Legrand's You Must Believe in Spring, whose unpredictable twists and turns match Charlie's style perfectly. This track illustrates Charlie's ability to treat ballads with sensitivity, while Tipitina shows his allegiance to the down-home New Orleans blues of Professor Longhair.
This may be Charlie Wood's first album of standards but I hope he makes a lot more, as he is a revelation when bringing a new lustre to the Great American Songbook.