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BWW Review: Eric Comstock Makes The Audience At Birdland Beg For More ... But Does He Give It To Them?

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With Sean Smith on Bass and Barbara Fasano at the mic, Eric Comstock reveals bit by bit by bit at Birdland.

BWW Review: Eric Comstock Makes The Audience At Birdland Beg For More ... But Does He Give It To Them?

Eric Comstock has quite a little striptease act happening at The Birdland Theater these days. Like a musical Dance of the Seven Veils, the renowned singing pianist is revealing his personality, one veil at a time, siphoning to the audience himself, his nature, his wit, his intelligence, and (eventually) his heart throughout the hour-plus show that he shares with Sean Smith and Barbara Fasano. And, like Gypsy Rose Lee and all the other strippers who have come before him, he has timed his version of The Strip to suit, perfectly, his style and his aesthetic.

With what can only be described as classic nightclub piano-and-vocal skills, Mr. Comstock plays a set of mostly standards, and when he strays from The Great American Songbook into areas like Bob Dylan, he sees to it that his arrangements for the more modern melodies meld inconspicuously with the more vintage musical fare of the program. In a bold and elegant move that this writer wholeheartedly supports, Comstock starts his show and plays four numbers straight through before actually turning to address the audience; herein is discovered the first veil of Eric's slow burn. He is allowing the audience to learn who he is, by the songs he has chosen and the songwriters he is showcasing. With little to no dialogue and facial expressions best described as warm but aloof, Mr. Comstock leaves it all in the imaginations of the patrons until, in the middle of his fourth number, it dawns on you that his piano playing is replete with emotion, and his vocal performance has drawn you in so that you find, to your surprise, you like him, based only on his musical artistry. Veil one, down.

BWW Review: Eric Comstock Makes The Audience At Birdland Beg For More ... But Does He Give It To Them? Once Eric Comstock has introduced you to piano playing that resembles an Olympic event and vocal phrasing that is positively Cowardian, he speaks to the audience in patter that has been meticulously researched, brilliantly written, and that is being expertly delivered, while being read off of sheets of paper on top of the piano, sheets that the Maestro flips over, once they have been read. Tsk, tsk, Eric - you don't need those sheets... you know what is on them and you deliver the sentences as well as any actor who has ever done a (you got it) Noel Coward play. Please, throw them in the trash. In spite of those homemade cue cards, Mr. Comstock's second veil is on the floor, as he demonstrates a dry sense of humor and ironic wink-at-the-crowd facial expressions. We see you, Eric Comstock.

BWW Review: Eric Comstock Makes The Audience At Birdland Beg For More ... But Does He Give It To Them? In the process of throwing away the third veil in order to allow the audience in, he turns to his friend and colleague, Sean Smith, playing bass alongside Eric, and their years together show in their on-stage rapport. This is a duo who speaks and understands a shorthand all their own, giving them a trust in each other that informs their musical and rhetorical interactions, in everything from Coleman and Fields to Rodgers and Hart, from Gershwin to Cahn & Van Heusen, from moments of collaboration to outright giggles and guffaws. The visual of watching these two master musicians and good buddies working, no - playing, side by side, is one that each person who has had a friend that was a playmate will relate to. Three down, four to go.

BWW Review: Eric Comstock Makes The Audience At Birdland Beg For More ... But Does He Give It To Them? Then, like a gust of fresh air sweeping through the darkness of The Birdland Theater, Barbara Fasano breezes up onto the stage, and not only do the somber lights of the stage brighten up for her, so does Mr. Comstock's face, already quite content. The mere suggestion of the presence of his wife of seventeen years brightens the mood of a man clearly enjoying his day. During her all-too-brief visit to the stage previously occupied only by men, Ms. Fasano doesn't only provide knowledgable and skilled musical storytelling, she lends an air of levity, playfulness, and joy, to say nothing of the change in her husband, still spectacularly playing his piano and singing along, but gazing, starry-eyed, at a woman he, quite clearly, adores. Their duet together especially overridden with love and happiness, the Comstocks are quite extraordinarily a treat to behold, and to hear - although one might offer that Ms. Fasano's choice to announce the originating artist of a song (in this case, Sting) stops the storytelling in its action, if the credit being given is not germane to the story being told. The inclusion of the lovely Barbara Fasano in the proceedings is altogether too brief, but enough to brighten things up with a woman's touch before she breezes out once more, taking with her three of the remaining four Veils of Comstock.

BWW Review: Eric Comstock Makes The Audience At Birdland Beg For More ... But Does He Give It To Them? That last one... that seventh and final veil that will allow the audience to see all of Eric Comstock, completely... it never falls. Perhaps that is Mr. Comstock's intention. Maybe it is his artistic mission statement to keep the mystery. It could be that Eric's brand is to let the audience in just so far, because the final veil of letting us in would be the point where he talks with us - not to us, with us. Not all singing piano players are interested in going beyond the border of the eighty-eight keys, preferring to keep up the showmanship (or showomanship, if you will), the way Liberace did; and while this writer craves that which could be found when Carol Hall was at the piano, or can be found when Emmet Cohen is on the stage, if this is Eric Comstock's brand, then so be it. So exquisite is the quality of his music, so significant is the tone of his voice, so dazzling is the construction of his script, so impeccable are his fellow musicians that his musical Dance of the Six Veils is quite enough to make a successful show. Though a slightly more personal touch might be nice, it isn't necessary, for this writer, having had a taste of the Comstock Fasano magic, would go anywhere to see Eric, to see Barbara, or to see The Comstocks together. They are that enjoyable.

Eric Comstock With Sean Smith (Bass) & Special Guest Barbara Fasano (Voice) plays Birdland every Saturday at five pm. For Information and tickets visit the Birdland website HERE.

Visit the Eric Comstock website HERE.

Visit the Barbara Fasano website HERE.

Visit the Sean Smith website HERE.

Visit the Eric Comstock & Barbara Fasano Facebook page HERE.

BWW Review: Eric Comstock Makes The Audience At Birdland Beg For More ... But Does He Give It To Them?

BWW Review: Eric Comstock Makes The Audience At Birdland Beg For More ... But Does He Give It To Them? BWW Review: Eric Comstock Makes The Audience At Birdland Beg For More ... But Does He Give It To Them? BWW Review: Eric Comstock Makes The Audience At Birdland Beg For More ... But Does He Give It To Them? BWW Review: Eric Comstock Makes The Audience At Birdland Beg For More ... But Does He Give It To Them? Photos by Stephen Mosher


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