Pianist Ehud Asherie has been one of my heroes — and I am not alone in this — for a decade now. His imagination is immense, matched only by his whimsically elegant and expert technique. A dazzling soloist, he’s also a wonderfully generous and intuitive accompanist and ensemble player. And he is immediately recognizable: like James P. Johnson or Bud Powell, you know it’s Ehud in four bars.
Ehud is fascinated by “old” music — songs composed by Eubie Blake, Fats Waller, Willie “the Lion” Smith (with delicious detours into the music of Nazareth and Noel Rosa) but he is not devoted to replaying what he’s heard on the records or read from the music manuscript. Rather, he loves the older songs because they haven’t been played so often as to have their own conventions and routines. He says, speaking of Eubie, “[These songs] are amazingly fresh . . . harmonically very open, creating a lot of room for musicians to play in. He was writing before jazz got really codified, so his music has none of the cliches we know.”
With his lyricism, individuality, sense of fun and his deep feeling, Ehud reminds me greatly of Ruby Braff, and it’s a pity the two didn’t meet and play together. The closest thing we have to this exalted pairing is the duets that Ehud and Jon-Erik Kellso do for us, and they are glorious. (A few are on YouTube.)
Here is an example of Ehud as glorious imaginer, someone who knows that the way to bring the past to life is to forget about how old it is, and to treat it with affectionate energy. I recorded this amazing performance at Mezzrow on West Tenth Street on February 16, 2016 — where Barbara Rosene and Ehud were performing in duet. Ehud chose as his second-set feature of medley of WEATHER BIRD, written by Louis, and TWO DEUCES, by Lillian Hardin — both of these songs also memorably recorded by Louis, Lil’s husband. (There’s a good deal of Earl Hines, pianist on these 1928 discs, there as well.)
The lovely woman who leaves the stage at the start is the wonderful singer Barbara Rosene, whose gig with Ehud this was, and the happy eminence bouncing in rhythm next to the piano is the great jazz scholar and writer Dan Morgenstern:
If you want to hear more of the elegantly raucous inventiveness that Ehud offers us whenever he sits down at the piano, he is at Mezzrow on alternating Friday evenings for their “happy hour” — check their schedule — and he’s also made a wildly rewarding solo piano CD of the music from SHUFFLE ALONG for blueheron records: details here. I prefer the actual CD, but perhaps the best way to acquire one is to come to a Mezzrow gig, where Ehud will have some on top of the piano, or visit here and here.
May your happiness increase!