The two women make an unlikely pair.
Quiana Parler is an African-American vocalist born and raised in Charleston. Ayala Asherov is a white pianist, composer and singer from Israel.
But their differences — actually, overcoming them — is the point of their collaboration on a performance Tuesday called “Woman and Love.”
Asherov, who has lived in Charleston for six years, said she was compelled to musical action after the shooting at Emanuel AME Church last year.
“I was in Israel when the Mother Emanuel disaster happened,” Asherov said. “It struck me: I am living here (in Charleston) and I can’t be part of it because I wasn’t here, and I decided I wanted to do something to show we are trying to change, and show we’re different than what happened.”
Asherov, 47, returns to the Piccolo Spoleto Festival for the third time as a songwriter and the fourth time as a composer. She reached out to Parler to perform Asherov’s original music.
“I was just overwhelmed by (Quiana’s) voice and sweetness, and I said, ‘I want her to sing my songs,’ ” Asherov said.
Asherov said the goal of “Woman and Love” is to show that two women from different cultures can come together to share a message of unity through music.
“Quiana makes me feel like I’m finally an American,” Asherov said. “She’s from here, and connected, and is giving me the approval of my creativity.”
Parler, 36, has performed since she was 9. She said the collaboration with Asherov is the first time she’s worked with a female composer.
“I’m always the only female, and to finally work with another female on stage is unbelievable,” Parler said. “It’s rare you meet a female who can create and compose.”
The compositions the two will perform are focused on the theme of love.
“We’re singing about this one main goal: love,” Parler said. “That’s the message, regardless of race or gender; that doesn’t matter.”
Asherov’s songs range beyond romantic love.
“It’s love with women and children, and women and their connection to the homeland,” Asherov said.
The duo will be performing with three jazz musicians: Paul Quattlebaum on guitar, Arnold Gottlieb on bass and Josh Hoover on drums.
Quattlebaum, 39, has previously performed with both Asherov and Parler.
“(Asherov) has interesting harmonic conceptions, and I love the textures and the vibe,” the Charleston-based guitarist said. “In a way, it’s pop music but with really unique jazz harmonic language underneath.”
He said whenever he plays with a singer, he likes to know more about the story the singer is telling so he can tailor what he’s playing to the subject matter. He said Parler’s is a great voice to add to Asherov’s compositions.
Parler said she’s excited to sing a different style of music with Asherov.
“I love (Asherov’s) arrangements,” Parler said. “As a musician and artist, I love a good bridge in a song. If you can write an amazing bridge, you’ve got me.”
Asherov’s melodic songs and poetic lyrics can paint a picture in the listener’s head.
“I’ve been (told) that my songs sound like a musical,” Asherov said. “I think that means it has a story.”
And the story Parler and Asherov will tell is about what love in all its forms can achieve.
Stephanie Jade Wong is a Goldring graduate student at Syracuse University.