Eric Comstock & Randy Napoleon

Bitter/Sweet

Harbinger Records
Eric Comstock once commented that he is just a saloon singer, but he’s also a solid pianist/ arranger/music archivist and a sensitive interpreter of songs. So use your imagination: You are settled in the coziest corner of the plushest saloon around, your favorite drink at hand, listening to some sexy, stunning Bitter/Sweet music by Eric Comstock and guitarist Randy Napoleon. Sink into the mood—it’s not hard. You don’t even need the saloon, only the duo’s new CD, Bitter/Sweet, and your imagination. Comstock’s voice and Napoleon’s intimate, nuanced guitar will do the rest.

Randy Napoleon has his own trio and is part of the Freddy Cole Quartet, playing the guitar with a subtle finesse and articulation that partners Comstock’s baritone voice and astute understanding of the song’s intent. The two bring additional layers to the arrangements and a singular intimacy to Rodgers and Hammerstein’s “I Have Dreamed,” Napoleon enhancing the Rodgers melody with spare elegance. Vocal and instrument together evoke the dark heartache of Gordon Jenkins’s “Goodbye” and are persuasive with the compelling phrasing in “If I Had You” (Shapiro/Campbell/Connelly), once a hit for the King Cole Trio. Lane and Lerner’s melodic “Too Late Now” hints of a sweet desperation.

Listen to Billy May and Milt Raskin’s haunting “Somewhere in the Night,” the evocative theme song for television’s Naked City. “A Nightingale Sang in Berkeley Square (Maschwitz/Sherwin) has such purity that one additional instrument would be one too much. One of my Comstock favorites, “Two for the Road” (Mancini and Bricusse), is often performed with his wife, Barbara Fasano, and here she joins again for a delicious understated rendition.

With their aura of intimacy, most of the songs remain in a relaxed tempo. However, Comstock and Napoleon give Rodgers and Hart’s “This Can’t Be Love’ a clipped snap that fits the irony of the lyric and “Wrap Your Troubles in Dreams” wraps up the CD with a tranquil swing. It’s an affirmative ending to this songbook of love’s joy and pain.

Elizabeth Ahlfors
Cabaret Scenes
April 2011
www.cabaretscenes.org