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Emily Asher’s Garden Party Quartet brings Joy to a Celebration of Bloomington's Hoagy Carmichael

by Rita Kohn
June 9, 2019
The District Theatre
627 Massachusetts Ave.
Indianapolis, IN 46204
(317) 685-8687
Rita Kohn, member: Dance Critics Association, Authors Guild, Dramatists Guild
New York City-based Emily Asher's Garden Party Quartet brought Hoagy Carmichael Back Home with the feel, look and vibes of "The Great Gatsby" in
CARNIVAL OF JOY! a celebration of Hoagy Carmichael for two shows on June 7 at The District Theatre in Indianapolis. With arrangements that grow organically from the collective souls of these gifted players, a sense of freshly minted mini-dramas brings renewed vibrancy to the familiar songs.

“I started seeing a theme between songs that initially intimidated me,” offered Asher, when I asked what brought her to create Carnival of Joy. While diversity is central to Carmichael’s oeuvre, each song is unfolding a stand-alone story, that collectively can be seen as providing an arc of people in progress of relating to each other, adds Asher. “His songs are concise.” What makes the Garden Party Quartet distinctive is the players’ gift of breathing space for us in the audience to absorb the nuances.

The promo reads: “[Asher] brings her Garden Party Quartet to Indy with a full program of freshly arranged and reverently re-imagined tunes from Hoagy Carmichael's fruitful fifty year career as a singer, songwriter and actor. Carmichael's masterpieces: "Stardust," "Georgia On My Mind," "Up A Lazy River,” and more have been made famous by Louis Armstrong, Ella Fitzgerald, Ray Charles, Nat King Cole, Frank Sinatra and countless others. Hear new takes on the songs you know and love.

“The band delights audiences of all ages with Asher's tenacious trombone and sweet vocals, Mike Davis' virtuosic trumpet playing, Rob Adkins swinging bass lines and Adam Moezinia's Juilliard-honed guitar mastery.”

Of special note at the noon program, Asher and Davis provided an impeccable dramatization of “Two Sleepy People” with vocals on top of the emotional essence evoked by Adkins and Moezinia on bass and guitar, respectively.

As a duet, Adkins and Moezinia imaginatively tool around “It Might as Well Be Spring” as a preview of Asher’s newly developed collection of Jazz Age favorites she calls Swingtime in the Garden.

At the Friday noontime show, the appreciative audience offered up a full four-minute standing ovation, to which the Quartet gave a reprise of the show’s opening upbeat “Jubilee.”

The Quartet played amidst a garden setting, with a backdrop of a basketball hoop in an agricultural field, open sky expanding into 360 degree surround. Enid Adams provided mood-setting lighting.

Having missed the fulsome evening show, Greg Reynolds shared these observations: “The evening performance went off spectacularly with the addition of Monika [Herzig] and Everett [Greene]’s pre-show "tales and songs of Hoagy," the Naptown Stomp leading the way on the dance floor, and Emily and band doing their full two set program ending with an encore and sing-a-long of Can't Get Indiana off My Mind. The sell-out crowd thoroughly enjoyed it, multiple standing O's…..and many hung out in the lobby to have a chance to meet, greet, and thank Emily and the guys for coming through town. The band successfully moved on to Michigan for last night's performance [June 7] and now on to Chicago before their return to NYC.”

Greg Reynolds responded to my query for an interview about his impetus to develop the Timeless Music Project. “As to me, well, let's grab a craft beer. Happy to share my story with you, but the real story for the public is the Music…..the people who wrote it…..and the performers today who keep it alive….and the new generations who find it. A good friend of mine brought his 20-something son who's in a PhD program at IU (math). He loves to play classical piano. He'd never heard Hoagy music, is now thoroughly enthralled. Them's the stories!!”

For the record, Hoagy Carmichael was born in Bloomington, Indiana, November 22, 1899; [died Dec. 27, 1981; buried in Bloomington, Ind.]. At Indiana University, he earned a bachelor’s degree in 1925, and a law degree in 1926; initially entering the law profession, and reluctantly following his talent for music until “Stardust” ensured his economic security. Poverty defined his childhood.
Emily Asher’s Garden Party Quartet

Emily Asher’s Garden Party Quartet

Photo © & courtesy of Photographer Unknown

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