Eric Comstock & Barbara Fasano: The Songbook from Sinatra to Sondheim to Sting

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Eric Comstock & Barbara Fasano 

The Songbook from Sinatra to Sondheim to Sting

Birdland Theater, NYC, February 11, 2024

Reviewed by Bart Greenberg

Sean Smith, Barbara Fasano, Eric Comstock
Photo: Beth Naji

It took only seconds after Eric Comstock and Barbara Fasano breeze on to the stage at Birdland Theater for the audience to know they were in the presence of glamour, wit, and sophistication, as well as warmth and emotional honesty. This rare combination of attributes promised much and delivered more. Joined by their long-time collaborator Sean Smith on bass, they took the audience on a flight of standards from a century of the Great American Songbook and celebrated several artists who had their centennials this year. They appeared each Tuesday of February at Birdland Theater—alas, the shortest month.

They jumped right in to the music with a charming “Isn’t It a Pity?” and followed that with one of the couple’s standards, the playful “Love Is in the Air,” in which they incorporated partss of other tunes about that topic. The trio got closer together physically for a very moving “The Things We Did Last Summer” that had beautifully controlled harmonies. As mentioned above, there were mini-tributes to some singers born in 1924, including Julie Wilson (“I Thought About You”), Bobby Short (“Let’s Face the Music and Dance”), and Lee Wiley (“Oh, Look at Me Now!”). Each song was coupled with some moving and often personal stories about each of the personalities being focused on.

Of course, each of these lovely people had their individual chance to shine. Fasano brought tremendous passion to “Fields of Gold” and “Busy Being Free,” the title tune of her latest CD. She also joined with Smith for an exquisite version of “But Beautiful,” during which Smith shined in his solo part. Comstock glowed in his medley of “I Fall in Love Too Easily” and “In the Wee Small Hours.” Other surprises of the evening included a very torchy version of Frank Loesser’s “Don’t Cry” and Paul Simon’s “April Come She Will.” But then every song was a highlight in this magical program.

Bart Greenberg

Bart Greenberg first discovered cabaret a few weeks after arriving in New York City by seeing Julie Wilson and William Roy performing Stephen Sondheim and Cole Porter outdoors at Rockefeller Center. It was instant love for both Ms. Wilson and the art form. Some years later, he was given the opportunity to create his own series of cabaret shows while working at Tower Records. "Any Wednesday" was born, a weekly half-hour performance by a singer promoting a new CD release. Ann Hampton Callaway launched the series. When Tower shut down, Bart was lucky to move the program across the street to Barnes & Noble, where it thrived under the generous support of the company. The series received both The MAC Board of Directors Award and The Bistro Award. Some of the performers who took part in "Any Wednesday" include Barbara Fasano and Eric Comstock, Tony Desare, Andrea Marcovicci, Carole Bufford, the Karens, Akers, Mason and Oberlin, and Julie Wilson. Privately, Greenberg is happily married to writer/photographer Mark Wallis, who as a performance artist in his native England gathered a major following as "I Am Cereal Killer."