Barbara Fasano: Busy Being Free

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Barbara Fasano

Busy Being Free

Birdland, NYC, December 10, 2015

Reviewed by Ron Forman for Cabaret Scenes

Photo: Bill Westmoreland
Photo: Bill Westmoreland

The phrase “busy being free,” borrowed from Joni Mitchell’s song “Cactus Tree,” is the title of Barbara Fasano’s latest recording; but it also, in its simplicity, describes the complexities of love and the circles we all swirl within, the theme of the CD, and Fasano’s show at Birdland. Fasano’s beauty and voice make her a delight to watch and listen to.

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Although I am always hesitant to write that a vocalist sounds like another, to say that Fasano’s voice is reminiscent of Lena Horne’s is meant as a high compliment. Fasano’s facial expressions, arm and hand movements are remarkably expressive and always are a major part of the story that she tells in every number. As the show was in some sense autobiographical, it was not surprising that five of the songs had female lyricists.

Fasano opened with a soft and slow “It Never Was You” that led into “Where or When.”  She remarked that “Cactus Tree” was her mantra at age 21, and the feeling that she displayed when performing the number, showed that the lyric is still an important part of her existence. Musical Director John di Martino’s piano solo aided in the fun of Fasano’s homage to Lena Horne with “Surrey with the Fringe on Top.” Before singing “But Beautiful,“ the elegantly dressed Fasano told the amusing story of an early-in-her-career appearance and how she was dressed. Sometime later, running into Julie Wilson at Rainbow and Stars, Wilson told her “not to appear in gym clothes.” A highlight of the performance was a very emotional “Remind Me” performed with just di Martino on piano. Fasano’s arms and hands made the “The Eagle and Me” a visual delight.

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She closed with a sexy, single entendre number by Nellie Lutcher, “Hurry on Down,” before returning for her encore, Philip Springer and Carolyn Leigh’s “(How Little It Matters) How Little We Know.”

Ron Forman

Ron Forman has been a Mathematics Professor at Kingsborough Community College for 45 years. In that time, he has managed to branch out in many different areas. From 1977 to 1994 he was co-owner of Comics Unlimited, the third largest comic book distribution company in the USA. In 1999,after a lifetime of secretly wanting to do a radio program, he began his weekly Sweet Sounds program on WKRB 90.3 FM, dedicated to keeping the music of the Great American Songbook alive and accessible. This introduced him to the world of cabaret, which led to his position as a reviewer for Cabaret Scenes.