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Ehud Asherie: Welcome to New York

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On Welcome to New York, his first-ever solo-piano collection, Asherie’s mastery of various masters’ styles, from Waller and Tatum and Dave McKenna on down, puts him in the elite group of heritage pianists who rode in on the wave of Wynton Marsalis traditionalism. The 13-tune playlist here is resourcefully thematic, not necessarily extolling New York as Asherie raids the Bernstein songbook for two more nuggets, “Lonely Town” and “Somewhere.” The latter ballad builds to a rhapsodic fantasia after a hushed, cathedral-like intro, cresting as Asherie tellingly floats the aching yearning of his right hand over the dark fatality of his left.

Duke Ellington’s “Drop Me Off in Harlem” begins the Gotham travelogue with a hazy saloon-hall ambiance, and Billy Strayhorn’s “Take the ‘A’ Train” swings us out. In between we’re treated to choice interpretations of Monk’s “52nd Street Theme,” James P. Johnson’s challenging “Harlem Strut” and Rodgers and Hart’s anthemic “Manhattan.” Nothing stomps quite as hard as Asherie’s electrifying “42nd Street” when it reaches full steam-before a graceful landing that duly honors the stop-time “Naughty, bawdy, gaudy, sporty” coda on the lyric sheet. Even more artful, Asherie expresses the wistfulness of Vernon Duke’s “Autumn in New York” by nostalgically quoting Gershwin’s “Summertime.” Dedicated students of the art form will then recognize the Hank Jones vamp that framed the opening track of Cannonball’s Somethin’ Else, “Autumn Leaves.”

Little delights like that are sprinkled everywhere, like Monk’s “Well, You Needn’t” in the middle of “Lullaby of Broadway” and a drop-by from the “Marines’ Hymn” in “52nd Street Theme.” Asherie studied hard for his first solo test.

Originally Published