Barbara and Scott Siegel
The Two of Clubs

He is simply (Le)Grand!

We all know Michel Legrand as a brilliant composer of such popular songs as "The Umbrellas of Cherbourg," "What Are You Doing for the Rest of Your Life?" and "Windmills of Your Mind." In his current and, dare we say, historic show at Birdland called Romance: With Strings Attached, he immediately dazzles as a jazz pianist. But that's just a side benefit of an enthralling new show in which Legrand combines his jazz band with a rich combination of strings inclusive of violins, a viola and a harp. Talk about lush! You may not hear a more gorgeous sound in a nightclub in this or any other year. And that's not just because of the instruments; it's because Legrand's arrangements are deeply romantic, sweeping you along in their complex harmonies that never once lose their melodies.

One is tempted to describe the offbeat, and oftentimes downright hilarious, introductions of each number by Legrand as a function of his Gallic charm. Mebbe so, but we suspect there is much more at work here than mere personality polish. His heavily French-accented English descriptions of what he's singing (and why) are more the product of a playful genius. Charming? Yes. But listen closely and you'll hear some mighty smart comments getting tossed off as if they were mere jokes.

Every set is somewhat different, no matter whether it's the early prime time show or the late show in this one week run. If there is a difference between the early and late shows, it might be that the late shows will feature the jazz band a little more heavily than the strings, while the strings will get more play (literally) during the early show. Be that as it may, you're going to get a superb show full of exquisite musicianship, beautiful melodies and considerable showmanship. You will know some of the songs that are performed; Legrand wisely peppers the show with some of his hits. But he also salts the show with less well-known songs, some of which he wrote with Miles Davis. Who knew?

Michel Legrand has two shows every night at Birdland through Sunday evening, March 8. Visit http://www.birdlandjazz.com for more information.


A Couple of Swells: Eric Comstock & Barbara Fasano

Someday, if they haven't already, married cabaret couple Eric Comstock and Barbara Fasano should double date with married jazz couple John Pizzarelli and Jessica Molaskey. Though they are hardly mirror images of each other, they have so much in common that they would undoubtedly have much to talk about. At first blush, both couples are all about musical sophistication. The only difference might be that Comstock & Fasano are grander in their demonstration of musical prowess, while Pizzarelli & Molaskey tend to be more playful. It was our chance, though, to finally catch up to Eric Comstock and Barbara Fasano, whom we had not seen perform together for quite a while. Putting on a show devoted to imagination/dreams/and optimism. Put another way, they were generally upbeat and hopeful—despite the fact they are putting on a brand new show in the winter during a Depression.

Comstock works (most of the time) at the piano; he's an excellent pianist and an even better accompanist; his work with his wife is fluid and wonderfully supportive. His singing is smooth and crooney. He has a lot of charm. His beautiful wife has a bigger, more passionate voice than her husband's but tends to rein it in rather than let it out.

Their material is extremely rangy; they are just as likely to do a song from the 1920s as they are a more contemporary Laura Nyro number. Sometimes they each solo, sometimes the sing together, but whatever they're doing, they always seem like they belong together on stage.

Eric Comstock and Barbara Fasano continue at the Metropolitan Room through next week. Visit http://www.metropolitanroom.com for more information.


-- Barbara and Scott Siegel