If you're looking for the definition of a class act, look no more. This is most certainly it. With The Late Set, kindred spirits Hilary Gardner and Ehud Asherie make us simultaneously pine for an era long gone and appreciate what's right in front of us.
If you've followed either one of these artists, their simpatico sensibilities should come as no shock. Gardner delivered one of the most meaningful paeans to New York in recent memory with The Great City (Anzic Records, 2014), graced a Broadway stage to lend her voice to Twyla Tharp's Frank Sinatra-focused Come Fly With Me, continues to share the vocal spotlight with fellow charmer John Dokes in the George Gee Swing Orchestra, and matches wits with gal pals Melissa Stylianou and Amy Cervini in Duchess, a Boswell Sisters-inspired trio that's made its mark in the past few years. Asherie, having delved into days gone by with tenor saxophonist Harry Allen, multi-reedist Ken Peplowski's quartet, and all by his lonesome, has carved out his place as one of the finest pianistic purveyors of aged gems operating today. Both of these artists, while walking different paths, always stand out as old souls and valuable exponents of what the Great American Songbook can offer and teach us. That fact is magnified when they join forces.
If you've been lucky enough to see this pair live, the magic needs no explanation. They put across a winning blend of casual expression and sophisticated artistry that's self-evident. Everything they create comes out as fine art without the slightest hint of artifice. This recording, presenting nine vintage numbers shaped with nuance and care, emphasizes that point and captures the spirit of their live shows.
Most of the selections presented here are deep catalog chestnuts from our finest composers and songwriting teams, widely acknowledged or not. Al Dubin and Harry Warren make it onto the scorecard first with "Shadow Waltz," an album opener that gently glides along while referencing how old songs take on new meaning in love's hands, and "Sweet And Slow," a piece that musically mirrors its advice to get off the fast track and appreciate the simple pleasures of time spent with another. The former proves to be a perfect scene-setter for this pair while the latter remains as relevant today as it was eight decades ago.
Those who prefer to take comfort in the familiar will likely connect with "After You've Gone," penned by Henry Creamer and Turner Layton; "Make Someone Happy," delivered unto us from Betty Comden, Adolph Green, and Jule Styne; and "Everything I've Got," written by Richard Rodgers and Lorenz Hart. But the majority of this material doesn't play toward popularity. Instead, Gardner and Asherie usually take the roads less traveled, covering those songs that we don't necessarily encounter very often. In many cases, it's those numbers that possess the stronger draw and deeper connective strengths. The depressive threads sewn into Rodgers and Hart rarity "A Ship Without A Sail," for example, can't help but appeal to the soul through sympathy. This is the kind of album that can both connect to modern times and hold high appeal as a throwback statement.
Shadow Waltz; Sweet And Slow; A Ship Without A Sail; After You've Gone; I Never Has Seen Snow; I Used To Be Color Blind; Everything I've Got; Make Someone Happy; Seems Like Old Times.
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