Tuesday, September 19, 2017

Vocalist Hilary Gardner + Pianist Ehud Asherie Present The Late Set on Anzic Records

Acclaimed vocalist Hilary Gardner and pianist Ehud Asherie present The Late Set, due out October 27, 2017 on Anzic Records. On The Late Set we find Gardner's graceful vocals in harmonious and rhythmic accord with the lush urbanity of Asherie's pianism. The duo holds the listener in rapt attention with their elegant interpretations, illuminating the subtleties and beauty of songs both familiar and obscure by some of the Great American Songbook's finest composers.

The Late Set is a follow-up to Gardner's debut album, The Great City (also an Anzic Records release), which closes with Gardner and Asherie's playful, painterly piano/vocal rendition of Nellie McKay's "Manhattan Avenue," a 21st-century neo-standard. The Late Set picks up that musical thread and travels back in time, as long ago as 1918's "After You've Gone" (the most recent song on the album, "Make Someone Happy," was written in 1960). Most of the album is devoted to seldom-performed songs with important commonalities: evocative lyrics, rich harmonic possibilities, and that most abstract of qualities, a vibe. 

Gardner and Asherie first began making music together about ten years ago, when Gardner was finishing her classical voice degree at Brooklyn College. "A mutual friend knew I needed an accompanist for my upcoming senior recital and he introduced us. The first music Ehud and I ever played together was a recital of European art songs. From our first rehearsal, it became clear that Ehud and I shared a musical simpatico. We'd rehearse the classical songs, then just play standards together for hours." Gardner continues, "Ehud and I believe that standards are our modern-day art songs, written by some of America's greatest composers and lyricists."

Gardner and Asherie evoke a bygone era of music making with their repertoire choices as well as their approach to the recording process. On December 10, 2016, the duo was joined by Grammy-winning producer Eli Wolf (Norah Jones, Bill Charlap) at Systems Two Recording Studios in Brooklyn, where they recorded the album in one session. In the spirit of classic mid-century "after-hours" jazz recordings, The Late Set eschews intricate arrangements, odd meters, and modern re-harmonizations in favor of straightforward, affecting musicianship, rendered with care and joie de vivre.

"Ehud and I are friends and musicians who happen to love these songs and want to share them as they are," Gardner explains. "We're not trying to be hip or re-invent the songs on The Late Set. We want to simply present these songs earnestly and lovingly, staying faithful to the melody and lyrics, playing within-not around, or in spite of-the structure. No matter how many times we perform them, these songs continue to reveal themselves to us in new ways."

Asherie muses, "The intimacy and sparseness of the piano/vocal format gives us a lot of freedom. Each song is its own little universe, with endless interpretive possibilities."

The duo consider The Late Set to be both a culmination of the partnership they forged a decade ago as well as a new beginning: they're continually adding to their repertoire and look forward to exploring and celebrating the timeless music of the Great American Songbook together for years to come.
Hilary Gardner has been named an "an artist to watch" and a Rising Star Female Vocalist by DownBeat Magazine. In 2010 she was the live, onstage vocalist in Twyla Tharp's Broadway homage to Frank Sinatra, Come Fly Away. Hilary is a founding member of DUCHESS, a close-harmony vocal trio with two critically lauded albums to their credit. In addition to performing at festivals throughout the United States, Canada, and Israel, the trio has enjoyed sold-out performances at New York City's Jazz at Lincoln Center, Dizzy's Club Coca-Cola, and the Rubin Museum. Hilary was Jeff Goldblum's special guest on the opening night of his run at the legendary Café Carlyle, prompting New York Magazine to call hers "a voice worth seeking out." She has also appeared on NPR as Michael Feinstein's guest on Song Travels with Michael Feinstein and Judy Carmichael's Jazz Inspired on SiriusXM. Her sophisticated, swinging brilliance is showcased on her critically acclaimed recording debut, The Great City, and now, The Late Set.

Ehud Asherie, "a master of swing and stride" (The New Yorker), is a jazz pianist who integrates the venerable New York piano tradition into his inventive style. Largely self-taught, or rather, "old-schooled," Asherie learned the ropes at Smalls, spending the wee small hours of his early teens becoming a fixture of the late-night jam sessions. From Smalls to the Rainbow Room, from Lincoln Center to The Village Vanguard, Ehud has since worked with a broad range of musicians including: Eric Alexander, Roy Ayers, Peter Bernstein, Jesse Davis, Bobby Durham, Vince Giordano, Wycliffe Gordon, Scott Hamilton, Catherine Russell, Ken Peplowski, and Clark Terry. Ehud's playing can be heard on countless recordings, including the 2010 Grammy Award-winning soundtrack of HBO's Boardwalk Empire. He recently released his twelfth album as a leader, entitled Shuffle Along (Blue Heron Records), a solo piano performance of Eubie Blake songs from the musical Shuffle Along.

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