Ehud Asherie, solo acoustic piano – Welcome To New York – Arbors Records ARCD 19406, 62:14 [Distr. by Allegro] *****:
Ehud Asherie appeared to be on the verge of becoming a classically-trained pianist. Although he took piano lessons as a child, things changed. Having moved from Israel to New York City, he discovered the Greenwich Village jazz scene as a teenager. Subsequent private instruction with Frank Hewitt led to playing in those very clubs that influenced his direction. Soon he would headline his own trio, eventually getting a two-year gig at the elite Rainbow Room, playing six nights a week. His group (Trio 65) electrified the erudite jazz scene. This led to work with a variety of local jazz artists, and tours around the world. He recorded several albums, continuing to delight jazz aficionados with his immaculate harmonics and spontaneous improvisation.
Ehud Asherie’s Welcome To New York is the twenty-first volume of the Arbors Piano Series, dedicated to the cultural relevance of Manhattan. While Asherie is aware of the intricacies of jazz influences like Duke Ellington, Art Tatum, Thelonious Monk, Bud Powell and others, he is careful not to imitate these icons. There is a mix of renowned and eclectic twentieth century jazz. A lesser-known Ellington piece, “Drop Me Off In Harlem”, has a jaunty pace that bristles with ragtime phrasing. Thelonious Monk’s “52nd Street Theme” teems with Fats Waller accents and tempo breaks. Asherie gets to show off his precision on James P. Johnson’s “Harlem Strut”. His left hand bass play provides a strong counterpoint to the briskly paced right hand runs. The sole original song, “Harlem Bound,” continues the commitment to audacious up-tempo phrasing.
There is a stark artistry to some of the interpretations. “Somewhere”, the lament from West Side Story begins as a lyrical hymn. A delicate technique, synthesizes chord variations that segue into an ethereal improvisation. “Autumn In New York” has an introspective resonance. The subtlety of theme is never lost in the improvisation. A fresh take on the standard, “42nd Street” is at once represented in dissonance and stride boldness. This arrangement breathes new life into the song.
There is always an undeniable connection to the material. “Take The A Train” builds around the original melody, exploding into rhythmic, modulating crescendos that offset the fluid lines. Asherie’s New York sentiment is articulated with aching elegance on “Manhattan”. The deliberate pacing and thematic development render the Rodgers/Hart tune as elegiac.
Ehud Asherie succeeds in creating a symphonic dynamic with a solo instrument.
TrackList: Drop Me Off In Harlem; Manhattan Serenade; 52nd Street Theme; Autumn New York; 42nd Street; Lullaby Of broadway; Somewhere; Harlem Bound; Lovers In New York; Lonely Town; Harlem Strut; Manhattan; Take The “A” Train