Thursday, February 16, 2012

Ehud Asherie & Harry Allen: Upper West Side

Ehud Asherie (piano)
Harry Allen (sax)
Upper West Side (Posi-Tone Records; 2012)

A classic sound and supreme mastery from Ehud Asherie and Harry Allen on their duet album, Upper West SideThis album shines with a series of standards that are performed exquisitely but aren't just your regular revisit of past benchmarks. This is a session that swings with vibrancy and class. 

The session has a lovely bebop vibe that is warm and inviting.  The classic "It Had To Be You" has bouncy and humour sprinkled throughout. Allen's playing is fresh and big. It reminds a little of Tuby Hayes. Asherie is strict and direct on the keys but knows how and where to place the playful notes. "O Pato" with it's Latin origins allows the duo to expand with strong (and should I say, funkier) passages. This is a tune they both carry with high energy and pleasure.

Billy Strayhorn's signature "Passion Flower," always a difficult piece to tackle; is performance with grace and precision. Both musicians capture the depth within the piece but Asherie's solo in the middle is a wonderful statement of his ability as performer and interpreter of standards. It has all the passion and emotion you are looking for in a ballad. Allen's soft touches both in the beginning and the end add richness to outlines of the piece.

The always consistent "My Blue Heaven" jumps in the hands Asherie. It's peppered with an almost Bud Powell inflection. There's a small bit of improvising in the middle bridge before Allen joins in and the two travel along exchanging some delightful rhythms back and forth.

Upper West Side is one those highly enjoyable sessions that doesn't try re-invent the past as much as it pays homage. But while it's a look into our musical history, it is also a beautiful document of two excellent performers. Ehud Asherie and Harry Allen are well-known within the jazz circle but this is a record all your non-jazz friends should definitely own. Tell them all...

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