Eric Comstock

No One Knows

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In the late '90s and early 2000s, Eric Comstock had a reputation for being more of a cabaret/traditional pop singer than a jazz singer. But on his third album, No One Knows, he seems to be going out of his way to show what he can offer from a jazz standpoint. Comstock includes songs by Charlie Haden, Duke Ellington/Billy Strayhorn and Benny Carter, and he is backed by musicians who are most definitely jazz improvisers -- people like veteran tenor saxman/flutist Frank Wess (an accomplished Count Basie alumni), trombonist Wycliffe Gordon, guitarist Peter Bernstein (who has a strong Grant Green influence), pianist Eric Reed, bassist Peter Washington and drummer Matt Wilson. Even so, No One Knows doesn't cater to jazz purists 100-percent of the time. Comstock, who has been described as "Fred Astaire-ish," tends to favor a very clean, mannered, polished vocal style -- and his versions of "There Will Never Be Another You," "Imagination," "I Hear Music" and "Old Devil Moon" are closer to cabaret. But one hears a more jazz-oriented sense of swing on Oscar Brown, Jr.'s "Hazel's Hips," Haden's "Easy on the Heart" and some Ellington/Strayhorn material. Comstock, thankfully, isn't one of those singers with a "warhorses-only" policy; the New York City resident includes several overdone Tin Pan Alley warhorses, but he also embraces Paul Simon's "I Do It for Love" and unearths some worthwhile Ellington and Strayhorn material that hasn't been beaten to death (including "Jump for Joy," "Grievin'" and the title track). No One Knows won't go down in history as 2005's ultimate hard bop/jazz purist album, but whether one categorizes Comstock as cabaret, traditional pop or vocal jazz -- arguably, he's all of those things -- this is a generally decent, well-executed CD that offers some likable surprises here and there.

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