The Late Set
I have not been to Mezzrow, the intimate Greenwich Village club but from what I understand about this small, listening jazz venue, the duo collaboration between vocalist Gardner and pianist Asherie sounds like the type of performance that is featured there. In fact, the credits include special thanks to Spike Wilner, Mitch Borden and Mezzrow, and the cover photographs were taken there.
This is a delightful, informal tour through the American songbook by the two with Gardner's, strong, tuneful alto, along with the clarity in enunciation matched by Asherie's nuanced, often restrained by deft, congenial accompaniment and solos. Another thing that stands out is the fact that the songs are not particularly well known songs except for "After You've Gone," and "Make Someone Happy."
The program opens with a couple of Al Dubin and Harry warren collaborations, "Shadow Waltz," and "Sweet and Slow." The former number opens with a stately piano chorus before Gardner starts her vocal, showcasing her nuanced phrasing and dynamics with a delightful, spare piano solo. It is followed by the unhurried,"Sweet and Slow," where she encourages her partner to take his time while the band is moaning low as Asherie is exquisite in his accompaniment with a late-night, bluesy feel.
After a wistful take on a lesser known Rodgers and Hart number, "A Ship Without a Sail," comes a remarkable rendition of a song going back to the twenties, "After You've Gone." This performance begins as a slow lament with light piano and plaintive vocal and then halfway through Asherie picks up the tempo and gives a propulsive accompaniment as Gardner sings defiantly about he will be the one suffering "after I've gone" with a superb stride piano solo.
"After You've Gone" is a performance that stands out on this mostly lovely program that also includes the cute "I've Never Seen Snow" from Harold Arlen and Truman Capote; the fetching rendition of Irving Berlin's "I Used to Be Color Blind"; the ebullient interpretation of Rodgers and Hart's "Everything I've Got"; the heartfelt, precious "Make Someone Happy"; and a captivating, reflective "Seems Like Old Times" (by John Jacob Loeb and Carmen Lombardo). Gardner's wonderful singing and Asherie's marvelous piano results in a delightful recording.
I received my review copy from a publicist. This review originally appeared in the January-February 2018 Jazz & Blues Report (Issue 376). Here is a video of the two at Small's in New York City doing "Autumn in New York."