In some old movie and TV dramas (that is, pre- 1965), there be a singer/pianist working at a local bistro/watering hole wherein the main character/hero/protagonist hangs out. This singer (usually male, rarely female) would often be a pal, confidant, and/or an informant of the main character, or simply sing some cool songs to provide or accent the mood or “atmosphere” for the movie. Hoagy Carmichael, Bobby Troup, or Hadda Brooks, all fine (and iconic) performer/writers of songs, would be tapped for this role of “hep Greek chorus.” If a hip director or screenwriter would like to assign such a movie part in our modern times, whom might be considered? Of the old guard, not many are left: Mose Allison, Georgie Fame, Tom Waits, perhaps the aging pop star Billy Joel (give credit where it’s due – listen to his “Piano Man” hit)…but if s/he wanted a younger hepcat to be the piano-driven songster for their Slow Club or Le Chat Bleu scenes, I got the guy: Charlie Wood.
This Wood fellow plays both sides of the street – he writes his own (the swaggering soul-jazz flavored “Let’s Get Up and Walk Around Some”) and knows how to cherry-picky good ‘uns from other pros (Waits’ laconically yearning “Johnsburg, Illinois,” Paul Simon, Elvis Costello). Wood’s voice is as genuine as the soot on your Akron windowsill and the gin-mill smell from Anywheresville, USA – a born storyteller with a slight drawl and strong old-school Memphis soul/R&B undertones, Wood recalls Allison, Fame, and Jack Sheldon (though his phrasing is much smoother) and occasionally Van Morrison, with a touch of Randy Newman. Musically, it walks the line betwixt jazz and blues, a la Dr. John and Uncle Mose. As a songster, Charlie Wood embodies hepcat worldliness and barroom empathy; he’s got style but also the wisdom that gives it heftiness. Whether that movie gets made or not, catch him.