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Harry Allen and Ehud Asherie at Chautauqua 2010

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This very inspired duo—Harry on tenor, Ehud on piano—took the stage early on at Jazz at Chautauqua and left a deep impression. Although their play looks casual, they reach memorable heights — whether they are handling the twists and turns of PUTTIN' ON THE RITZ like a pair of gliding skiers, or turning SOME OTHER SPRING into a rueful ode.

Some duos are an exhibition of two very ego-driven selves who happen—sometimes under duress—to occupy the same space. Harry and Ehud listen seriously to each other, and their duo becomes more than the two men standing on a much larger stage. Ehud's spikiness plays off Harry's creamy tone; they complement rather than collide. A witty telepathy governs their interplay. Even the people trotting to and fro with full plates were grinning at what they were hearing.

For Mr. Berlin, Mr. Astaire, and Miss Rogers—ISN'T IT A LOVELY DAY? Who could say anything but “Yes"? Hear Harry's purring, yearning sound; admire Ehud's most sympathetic commentary: adding up to a lovely quiet seriousness with not one superfluous note:



Ehud loves James P. Johnson, and here the duo takes that lovely ballad IF IF COULD BE WITH YOU ONE HOUR TONIGHT (or “ONE HOUR" for those in a hurry) at a surprising clip—a young Bud Powell has entered the room. But there's a sterling precedent for this kind of audacity: think of Bill Basie and his little band riding high on SHOE SHINE BOY in 1936. Midway through the exultant performance, you'll have to remind yourself that this is a duo, not the Blue Note Jazzmen:



THE LITTLE THINGS THAT MEAN SO MUCH was the song Teddy Wilson used as the theme for his short-lived big band. And as Ehud says, it's so true—not only for this kind of heartfelt chamber jazz, where every nuance counts—but as a life-motto:



PUTTIN' ON THE RITZ is virtuosic but never exhibitionistic:



And, to close, a sweetly sad SOME OTHER SPRING, with memories of Lady Day:



Jazz, stripped down to its essential selves, with no distractions!


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This story appears courtesy of Jazz Lives by Michael Steinman.
Copyright © 2014. All rights reserved.
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