Bill Carrothers: Love and Longing (RJAL 397017)

Cover

Bill Carrothers
Love and Longing

Bill Carrothers piano, voice
Recorded and mixed by Gérard de Haro at Studios La Buissonne, Pernes-les-Fontaines from 2005 to 2013
Release date: June 18, 2013

Despite having recorded pianist Bill Carrothers many times at La Buissonne, producer Gérard de Haro had never known Carrothers as a singer until he heard him hum a tune during some post-session downtime. Unable to let the opportunity pass, he set up a microphone and recorded this album of piano solos and songs, each performed in a distinctly personal style. As de Haro recalls: “We were no longer in the studio, nor were we in a normal time frame either—we were all in a state of absolute grace, love and peace.”

Though not a vocalist by trade, Carrothers has a natural delivery that pairs well enough with the material at hand and makes for an endearing program. Truly striking, however, is his bold harmonization and pianistic unraveling. Across a terrain of carefully chosen standards, his neighborly diction brings ease and comfort to the fore. In “Mexicali Rose” (Helen Stone/Hack Tenney) and “Moonlight Becomes You” (Jimmy Van Heusen/Johnny Burke), we find the words in lush yet never overblown settings as he unfolds gorgeous midsections for improvisational outpouring. From “The L & N Don’t Stop Here Anymore” (Jean Ritchie), a bluegrass song from 1965 about coal miners (its steady pulse recalls the steam engines of old), to “Three Coins In The Fountain” (Jule Styne/Sammy Cahn), he sheds one expansive layer after another. A standout is “A Cottage For Sale” (Larry Conley/Willard Robinson), in which a clockwork intro and sweeping arrangement give legs.

Interspersed throughout these is a veritable pinwheel of originals. Though mostly for piano alone, they find him singing more than ever. With a restlessness not unlike that of a lover’s heart, Carrothers pulls us through balladry, a splash of dissonance, and brightly lit expanses all the same. As a film reel come to its close, it winds down to stillness—a slow-motion sequence fading to black. To give the ending credits a soundtrack, he offers his most optimistic setting: that of “Skylark” (Hoagy Carmichael/Johnny Mercer), which features his birdlike whistling.

Despite the piano’s drape of reverb, Carrothers plays as if giving a home concert for close friends and family. And to this we are privy for, as one Cole Porter lyric puts it, “a night mysterious.” About as organic as it gets.