Eric Comstock: No One Knows (2005)
Wow! There are simply not enough superlatives for this CD. Eric Comstock "owns" the Great American Songbook like Tony Bennett and Mel Torme, and he is one of the best of the crop of young jazz singers and song stylists to come along in recent years. Blessed with perfect intonation and incredible enunciation, Comstock does equal justice to both music and words. His piano work is elegant and his arrangements are both witty and at times erudite. Although he's a young performer, Comstock has a maturity that belies his youth. All in all, No One Knows can be summed up in two words: pure class.
Comstock begins the album with "Easy on the Heart," a beautiful slow ballad by bassist Charlie Haden, to which legendary Basie tenor saxophonist Frank Wess contributes a full-throated obbligato. The title song, "No One Knows," is a little-known tune by Billy Strayhorn, a wistful remembrance of unrequited love thatlike Strayhorn's "Lush Life"manages to combine heartbreaking sentimentality with just a dollop of cynical Weltschmerz. Comstock also performs Strayhorn's "Grievin'," as well as Strayhorn collaborator Duke Ellington's "Don't Get Around Much Anymore" and "Jump for Joy." On the latter tune, pianist Eric Reed acquits himself nicely with an up-tempo stride piano solo.
Frank Wess graces the album with his distinctive flute on Benny Carter's "When Lights Are Low." Comstock and his fine rhythm section play this song perfectly with an easy, swinging gracefulness. I was also very impressed with Comstock's understated version of Burton Lane's "Old Devil Moon." By slowing down the tempo of this song, Comstock was able to bring a whole new interpretation to the tune. Lane's "I Hear Music" concludes the album.
One hallmark of Comstock's interpretive skills is the attention that he pays to the verses of songs. Too often singers will race through the verses of tunes like they are reading the legal disclaimers in Ronco ads on television. Unlike the infantile lyrics of many rock tunes, the words of a great song actually have something important to say. But the clarity of Comstock's voice is the real revelation. After daily media bombardment by Mick Jagger's hyena-like barking, Dylan's autistic mumblings, and 50 Cent's simian gutteral utterances, along comes the perfect vocal technique of Eric Comstock. Comstock may not represent the salvation of Western civilization, but at least we know that the Great American Songbook will continue to live on for those who know that high quality and popular song need not be mutually exclusive terms.
Track Listing: 1. Easy on the Heart 2. To the Ends of the Earth 3. No One Knows 4. Don't Get Around Much Anymore 5. Jump for Joy 6. Small World 7. The Night Has a Thousand Eyes 8. Grievin' 9. Imagination 10. I Do It for Your Love 11. Hazel's Hips 12. When Lights Are Low 13. Old Devil Moon 14. There Will Never Be Another You 15. If I Had My Druthers 16. I Hear Music
Personnel: Eric Comstock, vocals, piano; Frank Wess, tenor saxophone, flute; Wycliffe Gordon, trombone; Eric Reed, piano; Peter Bernstein, guitar; Peter Washington, bass; Matt Wilson, drums