by Elizabeth Ahlfors
You won’t find a classier trio, Eric Comstock on piano, Boots Maleson, on bass, and the star — a svelte songbird, Barbara Fasano, dressed in casual chic for a hot summer evening of captivating songs. Fasano’s new show was Easy to Find, downstairs at the new Birdland Theater, just steps off Broadway, a dim, sleek supper club. With a little imagination, you could be in another era, one of grace and finesse.
With evocative music underlining jazz, swing, and poignancy, the show traces the journey of Fasano’s life. A poignant highlight for me showed Fasano’s inspiration by Joni Mitchell, never so potent. Mitchell, a folk era songwriter/singer, shared her private emotions through music, reaching listeners with truth and honesty that is often disconcerting. Her songs were a touchstone for many women of the ’60’s and later. Fasano was absorbed delivering her trio of Mitchell selections, beginning with “Cactus Tree,” displaying its men who loved a woman who was just “too busy being free.” She went on to sing “A Case of You,” pure naked yearning and intimacy. She ended this Mitchell trio with the loneliness of “Marcie.” Marcie’s lover had said, “Wait for me” and Marcie did, until she couldn’t anymore.
But Fasano’s show is not all searching heartache. The Joni Mitchell trio comes in the middle of the show. It opens saying, “Here’s What I’m Here For” (…”I’m here for you”) by Harold Arlen and Ira Gershwin, a ballad from A Star Is Born, (“the Judy Garland version,” Fasano stresses). A perky follow-up is Paul Denniker/Andy Razaf’s ’20’s tune “S’Posin’.”
Fasano is a gregarious, outgoing performer, ready to mix songs of passion and laughs that are always wrapped around a connecting core of truth. Through the thoughtful “Photographs” (Alec Wilder and Frank Landesman), we follow a light-hearted pathway to the past, her childhood in Bayshore, L.I., the finished basement, going to the beach with her bestie who had the long, straight hair but Babs had the car. It brought back days of “Ribbons Down My Back” (Jerry Herman), meeting the boys on the beach and dancing to songs like Tony Hatch’s “I Know a Place” and “I Only Want to Be With You” (Mike Hawker, Ivor Raymonde).
Laughing with memories of the great Margaret Whiting, she leads us to articulate songs like John Blackburn/Karl Seussdorf’s “Moonlight in Vermont” and “Only in New York” by Jeanine Tesori and Dick Scanlon for Thoroughly Modern Millie, showing off the city’s everlasting flair.
Fasano’s musical moods mix and mingle. The sultry swing of “As Long As I Live” (Arlen with Ted Koehler) is always a reminder of Lena Horne. She turns to her husband, Eric Comstock, with a sexy, “Haven’t We Met?” (Kenny Rankin and Ruth Batchelor). Then, with “How Little We Know” (Phil Springer and Carolyn Leigh), she flirts with her bassist, Boots Maleson, who has been playing up a rhythmic storm.
By Billy Reid, a song that is always appropriate for this performer, “It’s a Pity to Say Goodnight” closed the show. You can’t go wrong sharing an evening with Barbara Fasano.
Barbara Fasano – Easy to Find, July 29 at Birdland Theater, 315 West 44 Street,NYC – www.birdlandjazz.com