In this day and age, when shock-and-awe maneuvers and new-thing sounds tend to get all the plaudits and press in jazz, it says a lot when a throwback duo date is widely admired by critics and fans alike. Such was the case with pianist Ehud Asherie's Upper West Side (Posi-Tone, 2012), which brought him into contact with like-minded saxophonist Harry Allen and presented a program of old chestnuts that were revived by their expert hands. Now, a year after that album first appeared in the marketplace, its companion piece has come to light.
Upper West Side and the newly minted Lower East Side were both recorded during one hell of a magical session in the fall of 2009 and, while it's impossible for an outsider to know whether specific songs were earmarked for specific albums at that point in time, it's easy to theorize that they were; both albums are cut from the same cloth, but they aren't the same. Asherie is a bit more extroverted on Lower East Side, as he dons his Fats Waller cap and conjures the spirit of Willie "The Lion" Smith. Allen also plays things a bit hotter on this second go round. He still delivers that melt-your-soul tone time and again, but he's also a bit more boisterous in places.
The usual suspects, like Irving Berlin, Richard Rodgers and Leonard Bernstein, all show up to the party at one time or another, but it's the unlikely appearance of Antonio Carlos Jobim that proves to be most interesting. When they take on his "Portrait In Black And White," Asherie and Allen briefly visit another place, where Brazilian music is glazed over with an Argentine sealant and left to dry in the warm and intoxicating air of night. This one serves as a little reminder that these guys aren't simply period piece players; sure, they can evoke memories of long gone days, but they're also full of surprises.
S'posin'; Hallelujah!; Portrait In Black And White; Hey There; Thou Swell; Some Other
Time; Thanks A Million; 'Deed I Do; Loads Of Love; Always; When I Grow Too Old To
Ehud Asherie: piano; Harry Allen: tenor saxophone.
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