As like-minded practitioners of traditional jazz, pianist Ehud Asherie and tenor saxman Harry Allen have gotten together to play duets in NYC’s famed jazz clubs such as Small’s. They also paired up for an enjoyable and intimate set on record, Upper West Side, Asherie’s forth album. Now only a year later, Asherie returns with Allen and Lower East Side, where they do more of the same happy, crisp treatments of reliable standards. As before, they get away with following with playing old songs the old way because they bring a fresh enthusiasm and advanced musicianship to it. Every description I applied to last year’s one-on-one affair can be said about this year’s, too.
That is to say, Asherie and Allen stride, swing and sentimentalize their way through the covers with personal warmth. They put the smile as well as the swing to upbeat tunes like “S’posin,” “Hallelujah!,” “‘Deed I Do,” which even gets a little attitude when Allen flashes that familiar rasp in his horn. Asherie, meanwhile, has such great facility to separate the comping of his left hand with the lead of his right, and “Thou Swell” shows how well he’s absorbed the detail of the style of his stride hero James P. Johnson. He can also caress the keys with just the right touch on softer numbers such as “Always,” and “Portrait In Black And White.”
Allen, who is perhaps the premier pre-Rollins/Coltrane tenor saxophonist of his generation, plays his horn in the way that made the saxophone the dominant horn in jazz. He growls and rolls his notes with a real character largely missing in sax playing today on the uptempo tunes. He balances that by his lustful intonations on the melancholy and romantic pieces such as “Hey There” and “Some Other Time,” where he so effectively breathes longingly into his mouthpiece. The two often engage in call and response where they trade off so smoothly because they undeniably have been performing these duets for years.
It’s a level of telepathy and a perfect matching of talents that plenty justified more than one album of this get-together.
Ehud Asherie – piano
Harry Allen – saxophone
1. S’posin’: swinging good time. Asherie bass walks with his left hand. Allen’s familiar rasp on display here. EA is crisp.
2. Hallelujah!: not gospel, but boy it’s rejoieful. EA plays like Fats Waller. HA can almost be heard smiling through his sax.
3. Portrait In Black And White: for this melancholy number HA plays closer to Stan Getz.
4. Hey There: HA lustful intonations. EA light touch.
5. Thou Swell: EA plays a nimble relaxed stride. Trades fours with HA.
6. Some Other Time: a romantic number , HA breathes longingly into his mouthpiece.
7. Thanks A Million: HA again blows like every note means something. EA’s phrasing is right in the pocket.
8. ‘Deed I Do: another joyful. EA’s conping is snappy. HA raspy. Trading fours.
9. Loads Of Love: light swing, HA “sings” the lyric lines.
10. Always: EA nice caressing touch on keys.
11. When I Grow Too Old To Dream: EA ornate sounding, but modulates well. Call and response.