The singer Marty Elkins is so good-natured that I know she won’t mind being compared to an imaginary restaurant.

That’s the way I can explain her most easily.  Wherever you live, there are hidden treasures: the little place without a sign that does wonderful authentic tamales, or the serene old-fashioned restaurant with wonderful food and loving service . . . places that aren’t “popular” or “trendy” but that you prize dearly.

Although Marty isn’t An Official Jazz Star, she is a treasure: someone who easily, lightly makes her way through a lyric without overacting — letting the meanings shine through.  She doesn’t aim to be Ella or Sarah, so her vocal style is heartfelt rather than histrionic.  Hearing her sing, you know what the lyrics mean, and you know that she knows.

And her voice is a simple pleasure in itself: she has some of Lady Day’s loving tartness, but she never descends to imitation or emotive caricature.  And she swings!

I had the pleasure of seeing (and recording) Marty and her pal, the ever-developing Ehud Asherie, on March 29 at Smalls.

(Just eight bars: let’s say a good word for Smalls!  (183 West 10th Street, Greenwich Village, New York City.)  Quiet, with the underground secret-cellar feeling of an old-time jazz club — a twenty-dollar admission fee lets you stay until the next morning; a well-stocked bar; portraits of Louis and James P. Johnson; a Maine Coon cat.  What more could we want?)

Hear how sweetly Marty glides through her lines and how tenderly, wittily Ehud adds his own thoughts.  (One of them that made me laugh was a famous Tatum riff from the 1944 Metropolitan Opera House jam session: listen and you’ll hear it, too.)  Listen to Ehud’s introductions: each is a satisfying meal in itself, and his left hand does what a pianist’s left hand should do.

They began with the nicest of commands — JUST SQUEEZE ME (BUT PLEASE DON’T TEASE ME):

And Marty knows a good deal about the subject and can sing with rueful amusement of what happens — COMES LOVE:

Another stop on the romantic Ellingtonian highway — DO NOTHIN’ TILL YOU HEAR FROM ME:

Then, a deep but swinging WILLOW WEEP FOR ME:

And, finally, a rocking LOVER, COME BACK TO ME:

I hope for many more opportunities to hear Ms. Elkins and Mr. Asherie — what a team!  (I wouldn’t mind a duo CD, either . . . .)

3 responses to “MARTY ELKINS SINGS! EHUD ASHERIE PLAYS! at SMALLS, March 29, 2011

  1. Michael’s absolutely right in his notes, Ehud has a left hand. Lovely James P influenced intro to Willow Weep For Me. Thank goodness all you guys in the States who have kept up the original “real” piano playing tradition. Over here in the UK we have roughly half a dozen serious “Stride Style”players .
    All the others die without a ride cymbal and a four to the bar bass (another of my permanent gripes, why ALWAYS 4 to the bar, what’s wrong with two, for those numbers written in that idiom? Does the bass player think “People will think I can’t play properly if I only play 2? “)
    Neville DIckie, one of our leading Stride players jokes…”in 1940 a terrible disease struck all the piano players in the world, paralysing their left hand into a crablike, deformed state, with which they could only intermittently stab at the keyboard, producing a discordant cacophany.
    Fortunately, a few survived this illness and became immune to it.
    (Ralph Sutton, Dick Hymen etc etc and all your great players today!)
    Well done you guys, you’ve saved the musical world.
    Carl Spencer
    Spencer’s Nighthawks (Yep, 4 of the UK guys are on our CDs!)

  2. Spanky Davis

    What a great set! Martha, you just keep sounding better and better. The two of you make a very musical team and I am looking forward to hearing more. Thanks for a lovely, swinging musical experience.

  3. Wonderful, Marty. I’m so glad to be able to click and link up to you and Ehud Asher. What a treat!

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