Ehud Asherie Trio – Wild Man Blues – Capri Records CAPRI 74153-2, 46:47 ****1/2:

Ehud Asherie – piano; Peter Washington – double bass; Rodney Green – drums)

Ehud Asherie’s meteoric career began in New York City. At the Smalls Jazz Club he met and took lessons from pianist Frank Hewitt. As a teenager he eventually played this club. He is a versatile star, and has recorded in duos, quartet, quintet and solo. His style can be described as bop, swing and stride. He has been recording for over a decade. Asherie’s latest release from Capri Records, Wild Man Blues is a moving, virtuosic collection of well known, mostly vintage standards. The opening title track is homage to one of the mist influential jazz musicians of all time, trumpeter Louis Armstrong. The New Orleans legend is known by many as a popular vocalist. But his impact on jazz instrumentals is huge. He drew on the styles of players like Joe “King” Oliver and transformed jazz into energetic, swinging instrumental improvisation or solos (as it became known later). Asherie’s distills the inherent jauntiness of the composition, but with a medium-swing groove. His sprightly right hand notation is joined by punctuated shifts and rich chording. Double bassist Peter Washington gets an expressive solo and drummer Rodney Green executes well-timed stops.It is a modern arrangement of a 20’s jazz piece. On the first of two Charlie Parker numbers “Parker’s Mood”, Asherie emphasizes the bluesy contexts with occasional trills and descending chords. Washington’s double bass solo is structured like guitar. The chord modulations resemble T-Bone Walker’s “Stormy Monday”. The pianist injects elements of brightness and sultry atmosphere. In a change of pace, the memorable “Flying Down To Rio” (from the classic Fred Astaire/Ginger Rogers 1933 film of the same name) is performed with fierce rhythmic intensity. The commanding piano riffs drive the percolating jam as the trio join in the artistry. Again the drum fills are compelling. The undercurrent of Latin inflection refines the gliding piano lines.

The trio consistently offers fresh takes on a variety of musical standards. Claude Thornhill’s ‘Autumn Nocturne” was recorded in 1941 as a “Hoagy Carmichael-inspired loping ballad with orchestration and acoustic guitar. Asherie captures the lyrical essence with jazzy melancholy. His delicacy glows with warmth and nuanced expression. There is a fidelity to the sophistication of the song. With elegant syncopation, Parker’s dazzling “Chasin’ The Bird” is dynamic with Asherie displaying jaunty flourishes (like Bud Powell did on the original) and Washington and Green solo and drum fill respectively. Aherie’s weaves in and out of the trio seamlessly. On a second Brazilian tune (“Na Baixa Do Sapateiro”), Asherie opens with a ruminative introduction before segueing to a festive up tempo. There is an interesting time break and Aherie’s muscular left hand anchors the jam. His graceful, flowing lead is approachable, and the adroit playing is a contemporary reboot to what is considered an early quintessential Brazilian standard. Gershwin was influential in the integration of jazz into classical and popular music. As with many show tunes, “Oh Lady Be Good” started out as a typical Broadway song, but jazz artists (especially Ella Fitzgerald with scat singing) redefined it. Asherie’s unhurried version has a combination of classical resonance and slow-burning erudition. The impeccable timing and elastic jazzy phrasing is a perfect fit to Gershwin’s complex structure. It is pure Americana jazz. A finale of Dizzy Gillespie’s 1966 “And The She Stopped” is terrific. Aherie and his band mates embrace the polyrhythmic Latin fluency that characterized the iconic trumpeter. Asherie’s bouncy chords and passion are palpable. Green’s solo is judicious and with Washington they remain in the pocket.

Ehud Asherie Wild Man Blues should be part of any piano jazz fan’s collection. 

TrackList: 
Wild Man Blues
Parker’s Mood
Flying Down To Rio
Autumn Nocturne
Chasin’ The Blues
Na Baixa Do Sapateiro
Oh Lady Be Good
And The She Stopped

—Robbie Gerson