Left to right: Ehud Asherie, Lezlie Harrison, Arthur Pomposello,
Brianna Thomas, Hilary Gardner.
Photo by Michael Stever.
by Barry Bassis
Pomposello aka Pompie, spent 18 years as the host and booker at the Algonquin’s
Oak Room. While there, he presented such fabled singers as Julie Wilson and
Andrea Marcovicci. He also promoted up and coming stars Diana Krall, Jane
Monheit, John Pizzarelli, Eric Comstock and others. Now, he’s back with
“Pompie’s Place,” a series of blues-based shows that include a three-course
dinner at Don’t Tell Mama.
by the opening show, he hasn’t lost his ear for talent. The performance stars
three female singers, in solo numbers and in various combinations: Lezlie
Harrison, Brianna Thomas and Hilary Gardner. The last is the only one I had
heard before, when she sang with Duchess (a terrific female jazz vocal trio)
and her own excellent solo CD, “The Great City” (a Valentine to New York).
opening number was an instrumental by the quartet, “Wild Man Blues.” While I
expected a competent backup musicians, I was pleasantly surprised to discover a
world class combo: Ehud Asherie, music director and piano; Jackie Williams on
drums; David Wong on bass and the wonderful Ken Peplowski, on clarinet and
occasionally saxophone. Incidentally, Asherie is the pianist on Gardner’s CD.
Harrison’s rich alto soared in W.C. Handy’s “St Louis Blues,” which she turned
into an upbeat song. Changing the lyrics from “I hate to see that evening sun
go down” to “I can’t wait to see that evening sun go down,” she gave the
impression that she was the seductress in the title rather than the dumped
spouse back home. She later returned for a rocking rendition of Leiber &
Stoller’s “Kansas City.”
Thomas started with a lyrical rendition of “Darkness in the Delta” but showed
that she was a red hot mama in Lil Johnson’s saucy “I Keep My Stove in Good
Condition.” The song is a series of double-entendres (much like Bessie Smith’s
“Empty Bed Blues”), highlighting the fact that the blues can be as joyous as
Gardner began with a reminder that the jazz world knows how to have a good time
as much as the blues folks, with Chick Webb’s swinging “When I Get Low I Get
High,” an early hit for Ella Fitzgerald.
later gave a heartrending rendition of Rodgers & Hart’s “Ten Cents a
Dance,” about a “lady teacher” trying to make ends meet and looking for romance
at her workplace, a dance hall where she is, in current parlance, sexually
and Lezlie joined for the vaudeville favorite “After You’ve Gone” from 1918, a
song that has been done by an incredible array of artists from Sophie Tucker to
Fiona Apple. This was followed by “Willow Tree” by Brianna and Lezlie.
band was again given a chance to shine with Duke Ellington’s “Creole Love
Call,” featuring a clarinet solo by Peplowski. The three women sang a mellow
version of Ellington’s “Mood Indigo” and ended with a rousing rendition of the
Arlen-Mercer classic, “Blues in the Night.”
only problem with the show was the intrusive presence of Pompie. Yes, he
deserves praise for assembling this talent, but is it really necessary for him
to introduce every number and engage in patter with the singers? Just welcome
the audience in the beginning and say good bye at the end and maybe there will
be time for one or two more numbers.
evening also includes a three-course dinner. Though not bad, it’s certainly not
on a par with the music. (The ads say the food is Cajun, but the description on
the menu itself of “New American Cuisine” is more apt.) Of the appetizers, the
chili had some kick but was quite soupy. The salad was a hit with fresh baby
greens, candied walnuts, orange supreme, chevre and red wine vinaigrette.
the main courses, the pan roasted Atlantic salmon was tasty, albeit a rather
small portion. The baby back ribs were tender, but drenched in gravy. They were
well complemented by garlic mashed potatoes.
dessert, my companion and I both had the rocky road brownie, which was rather
sweet. She found it excessively so. There is also an option for lemon meringue
the whole package (dinner and show but not drinks; there is a 2-drink minimum)
is $65, it’s a good deal, especially for the amount of talent on display.
Place” will be at Don’t Tell Mama (343 W 46th St., 866-811-4111, http://www.pompiesplace.com),
on Sunday May 10 (Mother’s Day) at 1pm, Monday May 11 at 7pm, and Thursday May
28 at 7pm. The club should make his shows a permanent fixture.