Ehud Asherie Jams on 'Shuffle Along' (Blue Heron). Somewhere Eubie Blake is Smiling [REVIEW]
Billy Joel once wrote "and the piano it sounds like a carnival." I kept thinking of that line from "Piano Man" as I marveled at the piano of Shuffle Along (Blue Heron Records) by Ehud Asherie, subtitled Solo Piano Interpretations from Blake and Sissle's 1921 Broadway Musical." Ehud may look like a rock star but he's an excavator. For his 12th CD, he's excavated the music Eubie Blake and Noble Sissle wrote for the first all-Black Broadway musical, Shuffle Along, that didn't treat African-Americans like cartoon characters. Rather than treat this revolutionary theatrical presentation as a museum relic, he uses it as the root for his playful experimentations and, as such, shows that its timeless components are still quite valid (despite "I'm So Wild About Harry" being the only song that survived as a standard). He was right. The show has recently reopened on Broadway.
Israeli Asherie, 37, lived in Italy for six years, then New York where his lone Monk cassette changed his life. He dig deep into Monk. He's dug even deeper into traditional Brazilian music. His duo, Bina & Ehud, with guitarist Bina Coquet, has been around for 13 years. Last year, he toured Brazil backing vocalist Manu Lafer and performed solo in Sao Carlos.
Here, he swings, shuffles, strides, bops and rolls in abject post-ragtime joyousness with the kind of constant creativity that captures your attention and doesn't let up until silence ensues. Truth is, I sat there stunned in that post-CD deafening silence and thought, "damn, that's a keeper." He's playful and entertaining, dexterous and non-stop, wildly jamming out with 10 fingers, needing no band. Maybe eight fingers. Does he use his thumbs?
Eubie Blake [1887-1983] went on to a long solo career and even had a posthumous Broadway musical in his honor called Eubie! in 1978 which ran for 439 performances. I was lucky enough to see the great man in person when he told the crowd he was 100 years old. (He wasn't, he died at 96, but he liked to say that.)