Daily Archives: October 16, 2009

INSPIRED ABANDON! (Thanks to Dan Barrett)


Thursday, October 15, 2009, was a depressing night to be outside.  Any hopes that Indian Summer was here to stay were banished by frigid drizzle that kept many people indoors . . . but some of us made our way to Smalls, on West Tenth Street, to hear Ehud Asherie and Dan Barrett — early on in his East Coast tour — play duets for an hour.  Here’s the first part of that session.  Ehud was in rare form, even facing an exceptionally out-of-tune piano (we could charitably blame it on the humidity), striding, swinging from his introductions, playing the unknown verses to familiar songs, accompanying with rare grace.  And Dan Barrett is, to my ears, the complete musician, blessed with astonishing technique and the maturity to use it in the service of the music, an extraordinary range of sonorities, irresistible, witty swing . . . all without having to do more to warm up than to put the horn together and spray oil on his slide. 

Dan and Ehud began with one of the favorite gig-starting numbers (another is SUNDAY), I NEVER KNEW — although jazz knowledge was everywhere on the bandstand, Louis in high UK style grinning at what he was hearing:

Because James P. Johnson is one of our heroes — as composer as well as pianist — Ehud called ONE HOUR at a lightly swinging tempo, perhaps subliminally thinking of how long the duet session was supposed to last:

As an ironic nod to the weather, he then suggested Berlin’s jaunty ISN’T IT A LOVELY DAY — music to make us forget that our trouser cuffs might still be wet:

A bouncy THOU SWELL came next — no rhythm section needed here!

One of the most beautiful ballads I know is Oscar Levant’s BLAME IT ON MY YOUTH — I think of an early Crosby version and a later recording by Mary Eiland.  This version stands along any I know:

Back to James P. for an ambling OLD-FASHIONED LOVE, perhaps also a remembrance of one of Dan’s idols, Vic Dickenson, who recorded this memorably for Vanguard with Ed Hall, Ruby Braff, Shad Collins, Walter Page, and Jo Jones: 

Jazz listeners will recognize that my title was originally used for a Lawrence Brown record session for Impulse — but it surely applies to the music recorded on Thursday at Smalls.  And there’s more to come!