There is a longstanding tradition of young Seattle area jazz musicians booking a hometown gig when they come home for the holidays.
She’s a bit early for Thanksgiving, but trombonist and vocalist Emily Asher, a graduate of Shorewood High School and the University of Washington who has been been making a name for herself in New York, is in town for two engagements Tuesday and Wednesday, Nov. 4 and 5.
Asher is part of a burgeoning Manhattan revival of early jazz. She and her groups — a sextet called Emily Asher’s Garden Party and a trio, Endangered Species — have fun with vintage material but don’t make fun of it, as so many post-modern groups have done. Though they do not come across as overly earnest, there is also nothing tongue in cheek about their versions of Hoagy Carmichael’s “New Orleans” and “Memphis in June” or Percy Venables’ “Big Butter and Egg Man,” notably recorded by Louis Armstrong.
As a vocalist, Asher projects ingenue innocence and harmonizes nicely with her male compatriots in Garden Party, who include Roosevelt grads Jay Lepley (drums) and Mike Davis (trumpet). Her full-throated trombone playing ranges from tender to tailgate. The other members of the group are Tom Abbott (reeds), Dalton Ridenhour (piano), Nick Russo (guitar, banjo) and Rob Adkins (bass).
Garden Party is, as advertised, a party band. Though it plies some of the same classic territory, Endangered Species is a more concentrated chamber group with the intriguing instrumentation of accordion, bass saxophone and trombone. Bass sax was played on a lot of 1920s records, often by Adrian Rollini, and Abbott, who plays in this trio as well as Garden Party, has done his homework. He uses the big saxophone to run bass lines as well as to improvise melodies.
When Endangered Species takes up a song like Irving Berlin’s “Marie,” Asher’s vocal has the effect of time travel, taking the listener back to 1929, which feels pretty good.
She’s a good composer, too. Her song “Pacific Lullaby,” a paean to a Northwest landscape she seems to miss (“soft rain falling on the evergreen trees…”), is on albums by both groups.
9 p.m. Tuesday, Nov. 4, at the Royal Room, 5000 Rainier Ave. S., Seattle; no cover charge (206-906-9920 or
Emily Asher’s Garden Party
7:30 p.m. Wednesday, Nov. 5, at the Triple Door, 216 Union St., Seattle; $10-$18 (206-838-4333 or