Eric Comstock

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Eric Comstock

Birdland Jazz Club, NYC, April 6, 2019

Reviewed by Alix Cohen for Cabaret Scenes

Eric Comstock

Escape the news, unwind after a day of errands, be reminded of sophistication and panache now going the way of the buffalo and attend one of Eric Comstock’s 5:30 shows at Birdland. The musician is a tonic.

With “Jump for Joy” (Duke Ellington/Sid Kuller/Paul Francis Webster), aided and abetted by Sean Smith’s frisky bass, we happily jitterbug in our minds. The performer then offers one of his signature eclectic finds, Curtis R. Lewis’s “The Great City.” It’s an insouciant shrug, a tilted fedora, a necktie replacing one’s belt. Comstock sings and plays like he knows the territory.

Speaking of ties at the waist (a Fred Astaire penchant) “The Way You Look Tonight” (Jerome Kern/Dorothy Fields from Swingtime) sweeps in soft and croony. Comstock often enters a phrase from above like a breeze. “This Moment” (John Wallowitch) is also utterly romantic, pensive, lilting.

Song pairings seem organic. George Harrison’s here cottony “If I Needed Someone” precedes the charming “Nothing Big” by the actor Joseph Gordon Leavitt:  “Nothing solemn, nothing set/Nothing more to give or get/Nothing more than me and you/Nothing more, thanks, that’ll do.”

We don’t miss a band. Comstock’s lush piano and Smith’s sensitive bass show characteristic artistry. “Will You Love Me Tomorrow?” (Carole King) and “I Want to Talk About You” (Billy Eckstein) are a match made in lyric heaven. Without its accustomed bounce, the first emerges as a balladic preface to its sincere successor.

Sean Smith’s instrumental “Old School” is cinematic. Perhaps suggested by the title, I envision a 1900s summer—A boy in shorts rolls his hoop past a park gazebo. There are picnickers and picaresque boats float on the water. Two old friends sit on a porch remembering when. There’s a warm pie on the window sill. Bicycles glide past. Cut to a couple in their twenties grown up from those halcyon days, walking hand in hand down a city street at dusk.

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She wears short gloves. They both sport hats—lovely.

Guest vocalist Barbara Fasano sings a heady “I Wish It So” (Marc Blitzstein) with notes surfacing from so far into throat and chest. It’s as if music is coming out of the vocalist’s skin. “Because I wish”—her shoulders rise—“I wish it so”—arms extend, her fingers splay, her stance becomes more determined. A dramatic song is executed with elegant restraint.

Her “Thunder Road” (Bruce Springsteen) is an animated scene-in-one; a tough vocal with deft phrasing.

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The slow, sentimental duet of Paul Simon’s “April Come She Will” evokes nostalgia not only for its actual origin, but of universal longing.

Comstock takes over again with “Did I Ever Really Live?” (Albert Hague/Allan Sherman from a show called, we’re told, The Fig Leaves Are Falling). It’s a number about becoming. The spare lyric is direct and heartfelt. Piano keys seem stroked. Here’s another choice with which our audience was undoubtedly unfamiliar. “Scratch a funny guy, see what you find,” the artist muses.

“A Hundred Years from Today” (Victor Young/Joe Young/Ned Washington) is brisk and swingy with a light, rhythmic touch. We exit smiling, less burdened.

Alix Cohen

Alix Cohen’s writing began with poetry, segued into lyrics then took a commercial detour. She now authors pieces about culture/the arts, including reviews and features. A diehard proponent of cabaret, she’s also a theater aficionado, a voting member of Drama Desk, The Drama League and of The NY Press Club in addition to MAC. Currently, Alix writes for Cabaret Scenes, Theater Pizzazz and Woman Around Town. Additional pieces have been published by The New York Post, The National Observer’s Playground Magazine, Pasadena Magazine and Times Square Chronicles. Alix is the recipient of six New York Press Club Awards.