Eric Comstock and
Algonquin’s Oak Room
Valentine’s Day is over, but a few musical billets-doux linger pleasantly at the Carlyle, where Christine Ebersole is still dispensing kisses and hugs, and at the Algonquin’s Oak Room, where the hip husband-wife team of Eric Comstock and Barbara Fasano, accompanied by the skilled bassist Sean Smith, are holding court through March 6 while their audiences hold hands. He plays intelligent, well-crafted piano chords, sings softly and looks like Timothy Hutton in Ordinary People. She gives off palpable electricity. In a nicely balanced act billed as “This Thing Called Love,” they expertly demonstrate every phase of their well-researched subject, from awkward first date to terrifying trip down the aisle to sharing a cramped studio with one bed and two cats. They can do this, see. They’ve only been married five years. Too early to sing “Lush Life.”
Mr. Comstock has always been in love with songs, so his superior taste in material is no surprise. From Bart Howard’s beautiful “I’ll Be Easy to Find” (a gem worth a second chance from the man who wrote “Fly Me to the Moon”) to the lonely-loser lyrics of Lorenz Hart’s “It Never Entered My Mind,” the moods are many and the tempos varied. The structure is a bit predictable—he sings, then she sings, then they sing together, joining forces in a smooth, sure meld, lightly flavored with NutraSweet, mellow as Lemoncello. Throughout, good taste reigns supreme.
The surprises are in the songs themselves. Eric’s arrangement of “Old Devil Moon” creates the haunting flavor of a voodoo chant. You can hear the clop-clop of the horse-drawn carriage on Ms. Fasano’s “Surrey with the Fringe on Top,” a ballad arrangement that recalls the great subtlety of Blossom Dearie. With Frank Loesser’s “Joey, Joey, Joey,” from The Most Happy Fella, the distaff side of this distinctly male bunkhouse aria is accompanied only by rhythmic bass lines. The duet on Sondheim’s “Love is in the Air” bounces. “Come a Little Closer,” by beloved cabaret clown John Wallowitch, is heartbreaking. There’s enough Berlin, Rodgers, Porter, Harburg, the Gershwins and Leonard Bernstein to sate the most deprived musical appetites. On “Cactus Tree,” the oddest song in the collection, you’ll even grab a bit of pop poetry by Joni Mitchell. Curtis Lewis’ “The Great City” captures the joy of New York in the day, when Mabel Mercer and Bobby Short led the parade of great songbirds who lured sophisticated New Yorkers to discover magic after midnight. If anybody still stayed out after the 10 o’clock news, Eric Comstock and Barbara Fasano would do the same thing. Meanwhile, savor brief visits like the one currently lighting up the Oak Room, and make the most of their favors. If love is a wave, they are riding the crest of it.