Perhaps when you think of a party you envision fascinating forbidden foods — in small or large portions — and many cheerful people mingling. That’s not a bad image at all. When I went to Google Images to find something suitable for this blog, most of the photographs were of athletic-looking women in brightly-colored swimwear, arms extended on high. Nice, but I don’t remember being invited to those parties, so I chose something more appropriate.
I’m honored to count Emily Asher as a friend and musical colleague, and I was thrilled to be at her swinging concert at Joe’s Pub on June 7, 2015. To the uninitiated, Emily’s band — Garden Party — might seem just another retro-swing outfit, offering variations on familiar music. That would be a deep misconception, because as the videos below will show, Emily and her musical pals have musical integrity — that is, they play honest music from their hearts — and expansive visions — so that any gig she’s on is going to be wide-ranging, each selection both improvised on the spot and well-thought out. This is not a band devoted to copying the predictable, but its innovations don’t jostle or hurt.
Here are the first six selections from that very gratifying night at Joe’s Pub. Emily is our trusted trombonist, singer, composer, arranger; with her are Mike Davis, trumpet, vocal; Evan Arntzen, clarinet, alto sax; Dalton Ridenhour, piano; Nick Russo, guitar, banjo; Rob Adkins, string bass; Jay Lepley, drums, vocal.
WHEN YOU WORE A TULIP (a bright yellow tulip, no less) to start things rocking, with a delicious New Orleans parade beat from Jay:
I’VE GOT A FEELING I’M FALLING (a little romance from Tom and Andy — Waller and Razaf, that is — sung by Emily and Mike):
A rousing suggestion for increased personal happiness, WALK IT OFF, sung by Jay — and the band rocks in good middle-Forties style:
GARDEN PARTY PARTY, evoking Kid Ory’s SAVOY BLUES, but with no copying implicit or explicit:
A gorgeous evocation of Hoagy’s MEMPHIS IN JUNE thanks to Rob and Evan:
Music heals, we hope. Listen to Emily’s joyously defiant AN OPEN INVITATION TO A RAINSTORM:
A swell party, indeed — full of musical energy, much more sustaining than bacon-wrapped shrimp and mojitos. And there are more performances to come.
May your happiness increase!