Review: ‘Pompie’s Place,’ a Blues Club in a Time Warp
Some of New York City’s finer jazz and blues musicians performed Wednesday evening at “Pompie’s Place,” an imaginary club within a club at Don’t Tell Mama. Pompie is the theatrical sobriquet of the show’s impresario, Arthur Pomposello, the former host of the Oak Room at the Algonquin Hotel. Addressing the audience as though it were filled with children about to embark on a scary Halloween thrill ride, he pretended the club was “a den of vice.”
The assembled talent was no joke, though, and the tiresome comic shtick was an unnecessary distraction. Under the musical direction of Ehud Asherie, who was also on piano, an ensemble of top-flight musicians, including the brilliant reed player Ken Peplowski, ran through a familiar jazz and blues repertory that began with “St. Louis Blues” and ended with “Blues in the Night.” Each number was vigorously performed by the musicians, who were joined by the singers Lezlie Harrison and Hilary Gardner.
Ms. Harrison’s imperious, sultry alter ego and Ms. Gardner’s personification of a down-and-out girl next door made for a nifty juxtaposition of 1930s and ’40s blues archetypes around whom you could imagine all kinds of trouble swirling. In her performance of “Fine and Mellow,” especially, Ms. Harrison embodied one of Duke Ellington’s “sophisticated ladies.” Ms. Gardner evoked an uninhibited answer to the young Doris Day in her rendition of “Ten Cents a Dance.” She was the epitome of what used to be called a tarnished angel.
The two joined forces for several songs, of which the most striking was a closely harmonized duet on “Mood Indigo.” Lending the music extra weight were the drummer Jackie Williams and the bassist David Wong, who rounded out the ensemble.