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A few months ago, I had the opportunity to see a performance of Singing Astaire: A Fred Astaire Songbook presented at NYC's Birdland during daylight hours. This revue was written by a very talented Eric Comstock, who also played piano and sang, along with two equally talented vocalists, Hilary Kole and Christopher Gines. Comstock seamlessly stitched together 29 Astaire-associated standards, some in conceptual medleys with entertaining anecdotes. Prior to that, Comstock co-wrote the long-running Off Broadway revue Our Sinatra.
Eric Comstock's third album represents a departure from his two previous cabaret-style efforts. No One Knows certainly contains the essence of cabaret, but with more of a jazz inflection that is accomplished through the participation of A-list musicians like Frank Wess, Wycliffe Gordon, Eric Reed, Peter Bernstein, Peter Washington, and Matt Wilson, as well as Comstock himself.
Comstock is no slouch when it comes to selecting tunes that are relatively undiscovered by the general public, and this album is no exception. Two songs from the Billy Strayhorn songbook, the title tune and the bluesy "Grievin'," are heard for the first time by this listener. Oscar Brown Jr's early-'60s "Hazel's Hips" is a rarely heard, hooky composition. Am I dreaming or wasn't that also part of the late 2004 album Classikhan from Chaka Khan? For added nostalgia, how about "If I Had My Druthers" from the mid-'50s Broadway musical L'il Abner?
Songs are generally treated with both reverence and whimsy. "To The Ends Of The Earth," most often associated with Nat King Cole, swings here with very nice touches from Peter Bernstein's guitar, Frank Wess' tenor sax, and Wycliffe Gordon's trombone, as well as the singer/vocalist himself. "Don't Get Around Much Anymore" is given the rarely heard verse and "The Night Has A Thousand Eyes" is presented at a bolero-like tempo.
On "I Hear Music," Eric Comstock delivers the opening verse in flag-waver fashion and then slows the body of the song to a toe-tapping mid-tempo pace for a very effective conclusion. Two songs that don't work are the Van Heusen/Burke standard "Imagination," slowed down to a ballad, and Paul Simon's "I Do It For Your Love." On the latter, Simon's lyrics don't seem sympatico with Comstock's reading. Still, two speed bumps out of sixteen shouldn't discourage potential fans.
Track Listing: Easy On The Heart, To The Ends Of The Earth, No One Knows, Don't Get Around Much Anymore, Jump For Joy, Small World, The Night Has A Thousand Eyes, Grievin', Imagination, I Do It For Your Love, Hazel's Hips, When Lights Are Low, Old Devil Moon, There Will Never Be Another You, If I Had My Druthers, I Hear Music.
Personnel: Eric Comstock, vocals,piano; Frank Wess, tenor sax, flute; Wycliffe Gordon, trombone; Eric Reed, piano; Peter Bernstein, guitar; Peter Washington, bass; Matt Wilson, drums.
I love jazz because it mixes intellect and emotion in a very spontaneous way.
I was first exposed to jazz by liberating a Coltrane and a Pharoah Sanders record from a friend in NYC and listening to them over and over until I got it.
My advice to new listeners is you have to take the time to listen to some jazz tunes a number of times until it starts to make sense.