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Busy Being Free - Elizabeth Ahlfors

Barbara Fasano

Busy Being Free
Barbara Fasano
Musical Director: John diMartino
Arrangements by John diMartino
January 11.  February 25, 2016

Review by Elizabeth Ahlfors

Celebrating her latest CD, Busy Being Free, Barbara Fasano is busy being close to perfect.  In her new show at the Metropolitan Room, the CD's jazz band vibe is tamed down, creating an intimate cabaret mood with only piano and vocals.  But what a piano with the jazz improvisation of John diMartino!  What vocals by the compelling  and evocative Barbara Fasano!  

With the focus on music and lyrics, Fasano's theatrical instincts allow time for passion and for laughs.  She presents a program of stories in song, tales of a woman's journey through the intricacies of life and love and related with emotion.

One song was an inspiration for her in the searching core of the CD and this show, Joni Mitchell's "Cactus Tree."  Its self-involved girl/woman reminiscences about romance and lovers, admitting, "She will love them when she sees them/ They will lose her if they follow."  

Other songs from other eras add their sounds to the circle of emotions, personalized with Fasano's stories.  At the Metropolitan Room, Fasano opened emotionally with Kurt Weill/Maxwell Anderson's haunting "It Never Was You," and the journey continued with the déjà vu of Rodgers and Hart's "Where or When" with one line in the verse telling all, "Oh, the tricks your mind can play!"  The songs were chosen with such taste, all well crafted, all literate, all adding to the destination of the search for answers.  Hear the line in Vernon Duke/Ogden Nash's "Roundabout," "You may fancy yourself as an immortal creature/ But we're just a cartoon/ Between a double feature."  

With Fasano's resonant vocals supported by Martino's expressive harmonies, the moods alters, from the apprehension in the young girl singing, "If I Loved You" from Carousel to the bluesy sass of Nellie Lutcher's "Hurry On Down."  The infusion of jazz into "The Surrey With the Fringe On Top" raises the theatricality of this song from Oklahoma.  Fasano brings to life "The Eagle and Me" by Harold Arlen and Yip Harburg and clearly gets Dorothy Field's sophisticated play with words in "Remind Me."  

Leading into "But Beautiful," she reminded everyone of the late Julie Wilson.  She delivered a poignant, "I Got Lost in His Arms" as she got lost in the memory of her parents dancing in the Long Island finished basement of her childhood home.

Barbara Fasano clearly relishes the search for answers to the fascinating pattern of life's complexities.  Intriguingly, she ended with "How Little We Know” by Philip Springer and Carolyn Leigh, and carried the idea home with the mix of hope into the darker shades of Dietz and Schwartz' "Dancing in the Dark."