This is simply a beautiful album in more ways than one. On the centennial anniversary of the birth of one of the founding fathers of American musical theater, the not-for-profit organization Broadway Cares/Equity Fights AIDS has released a tribute album to Richard Rodgers featuring six of the greatest jazz pianist today giving their takes on Rodgers-penned classics. The proceeds from this album will benefit Broadway Cares/EFA, which has raised more than $50 million since 1988 for people with AIDS, HIV, and HIV related illnesses.
Each featured pianist puts his or her personal twist to the song selections; the album never becomes tedious or falls into a rut. Benny Green adds some boogie woogie strut to "Surrey With The Fringe On Top" from Oklahoma. Kenny Barron sparkles on an extended take of "My Funny Valentine", giving it a classical flourish. And the grand dame of jazz piano, Marian McPartland, strikes a delicate balance with her sparse arrangement of "It Never Entered My Mind", the silence between notes adding to the beauty of the song. Bill Charlap, George Shearing, and Fred Hersch also contribute to the album, with Hersch acting as the producer of the project, his third to benefit Broadway Cares/EFA. The most striking thing about this album is the way that Rodgers’ songs translate to jazz; which shouldn’t come as such a surprise since these are two American originals we are talking about.