Reviews: Busy Being Free

“Barbara Fasano is not just a singer, she is a persuasive storyteller. The new album is especially fascinating since many of the songs are standards. New treatments of old favorites can give them a new life, and her personalized interpretations bring out new meanings to them.”
Read the full review

HUFFINGTON POST review by David Finkle (June 5,2016)

Busy Being Free – Barbara Fasano – Human Child Records: Another ultra-classy cabaret singer, she
realized some time ago that jazz rooms doubled her chances of a gig on Saturday night. She has tidily
accommodated herself since. For one piece of evidence, she has Warren Vaché, than whom there is none
better, on his evocative cornet here. Like Jungr, Fasano relishes the notion of a unifying theme and relishes
its remaining not so blatant that it becomes didactic. Fasano’s theme, subtly promoted, is temporality,
impermanence. She stresses—but not by using a hammer to get the point across—that seizing the moment
is the best way to enjoy life, or squeeze the most out of it. She establishes her sultry thesis immediately
with the Philip Springer-Carolyn Leigh “How Little We Know.” In the Hammerstein-Rodgers “The Surrey
With the Fringe on the Top,” she repeats the concluding lyric “Don’t you wish it would go on forever.” She
closes her sweet sermon with the mysterious Rodgers-Lorenz Hart “Where or When.” The range of
songwriters to whom she turns in order to make a convincing case for her belief is traffic-stopping—among
others, Joni Mitchell (who supplies the CD’s title), Nellie Lutcher, Vernon Duke and Ogden Nash, Kurt
Weill and Maxwell Anderson. Her sources are an indication of how discerning Fasano is. More than any of
that, however, as a singer always at the top of her game, on this CD she’s doing the best singing she’s ever
done. Every vowel, every consonant is intelligent, lush and sexy.

JERSEY JAZZ Review by Joe Lang

Busy Being Free (Human Child Records – 3106) finds BARBARA FASANO in peak form singing a program of 14 well-chosen songs.  To support her in this undertaking, she has chosen well, with John di Martino, who did the outstanding arrangements, on piano, Warren Vaché on cornet, Aaron Heick on soprano sax and flute, Paul Meyers on guitar, Boris Kozlov on bass and Vince Cherico on drums
and percussion.  Fasano is an assured singer with a warmly appealing sound who does full justice to the lyrics of the songs that she performs.  When it comes to selecting a program, she exhibits superb taste, opting for songs that are not over recorded.  The most familiar among them are “Dancing in the Dark” and “Where or When.”  Others like “How Little We Know,” “Remind Me,” “If I Loved You,” “The Surrey with the Fringe on Top,” “I Got Lost in His Arms” and “But Beautiful” are not obscure, but are not found on many recent albums.  “Roundabout” and “Photographs” are wonderful tunes rarely heard.  Fasano usually includes a few more contemporary tunes in her live programs, and she follows suit on this album with Joni Mitchell’s “Cactus Tree” and Jimmy Webb’s “Time Flies.”  The band is all a singer could want, with each of the players making solid contributions to the whole.  Vaché is particularly noteworthy, with his puckish sense of humor manifesting itself on occasion like his whinnying effect on “Surrey.”  All in all, this is a consistently engaging album by a terrific singer and the cats who surround her.  ( )  (Note: There is a review of Barbara Fasano’s CD release gig at Birdland in the Caught in the Act column on this issue.  She and John di Martino will be appearing at the Metropolitan Room ( on Thursday, February 25, and at the Kitano ( ) on Saturday, April 16 performing many of the songs from this album.)

​The line between jazz and cabaret singing has always been a bit blurry. While jazz singing includes
improvising (whether in one’s choice of notes, words, sounds and/or phrasing), cabaret singing puts the
emphasis on serving the song and the composer’s original intentions. Some vocalists perform both jazz and
cabaret interpretations, depending on the song.
Although best known as a cabaret singer who often works with her husband pianist Eric Comstock,
Barbara Fasano shows on Busy Being Free that she has a jazz sensibility too. While her improvising is
subtle, she makes such songs as “How Little We Know,” “Remind Me” (taken as a touching ballad),
“Dancing In The Dark” and “The Surrey With The Fringe On Top” sound fresh and lightly swinging. The
singer is assisted on a few songs apiece by the great cornetist Warren Vache and Aaron Heick (soprano and
flute) and she is accompanied throughout by pianist-arranger John Di Martino, guitarist Paul Meyers,
bassist Boris Kozlov and drummer-percussionist Vince Cherico. Whether it is Joni Mitchell’s “Cactus
Tree,” Alec Wilder’s “Photographs” or Nellie Lutcher’s good-time “Hurry On Down,” Barbara Fasano
displays a powerful and pleasing voice that suits the vintage material well.  ~Scott Yanow

In Tune International by Dan Singer

Barbara continues to amaze me, not only with her superb singing but with her co-produced CDs. She excels in specially
selecting some of the most wonderful songs seemingly sounding just as if they were written just for her.
“How Little We Know” (Springer/Leigh) starts things off with such robust energy, I just had to play the replay button. There is a delightful surprise at the song’s conclusion that awaits the fortunate listener. Her treatment of “Remind Me” (Kern/Fields) is most enlightening. With the verse intact almost spoken she exhibits a wondrous almost operatic singing voice for this never
too often performed song. “Dancing In The Dark” (Schwartz/Dietz) is a perfect example of just how lovely the waltz beat can adapt so originally into a remarkable performance. ”The Surrey With The Fringe On Top” (Rodgers/Hammerstein) contains so much pop and zip that it really skips along quite rapidly. Listen for a remarkable upbeat cornet solo by the always remarkable Warren Vache. Sounds like each one was driving each other to a spectacular take. “I Got Lost In His Arms” (Berlin) is one of those seldom sung great
songs because of its difficult mood swings. In Ms. Fasano’s hands it seems so easily performed and executed. “Hurry On Down” (Lutcher) is the famous obscure Nellie Lutcher classic. Barbara handles herself so graciously. The blues almost disappears completely and it becomes a tender love song especially with her special concluding sentence. There should be mention of her co-producer/pianist John Di Martino. It’s amazing just how often his name appears in my column every month. His piano support is just about the most intelligent and useful any smart and wise singer can have.


It’s rewarding to follow singers as they grow and mature, and no artist exemplifies this more than the
alluring Barbara Fasano.  On the scene for more than twenty years, it’s been almost ten years since Fasano
released her last recording, Written in the Stars (2006), a lush and insightful cache of Harold Arlen songs.

So it’s a major event she’s returned to the recording studio and the results, Busy Being Free (2015), are an
eclectic grab-bag of musical delights as interesting to ponder as they are ravishing to hear!
Released last year before the holidays, Fasano’s selections on Busy Being Free run a seemingly disparate
gamut of writers from Carolyn Leigh (“How Little We Know” with Philip Springer) and Dorothy Fields
(“Remind Me” with Jerome Kern), to Joni Mitchell (“Cactus Tree”) and Nellie Lutcher (“Hurry On
Down”).  She’s also honors her roots in musical theatre by including standards from Richard Rodgers, with
both Oscar Hammerstein II (“If I Loved You” & “The Surrey With the Fringe On Top”) and Lorenz Hart
(“Where or When”), Kurt Weill (“It Never Was You” with Maxwell Anderson) and Irving Berlin (“I Got
Lost in His Arms”).  Yet in its execution, Fasano’s insightful interpretations and effortless singing pull her
collection together with wit, humor and a wry streak of longing.  Her performance of Joni Mitchell’s
“Cactus Tree” is especially effective and made me think of all the other Joni Mitchell songs I’d love to hear
Fasano sing.  She could easily devote an entire album/disc to Mitchell’s rich catalogue of material. (Hint,

If I were forced to pick a favorite track on Busy Being Free, I’d have to insist on at least three: Vernon
Duke “Ogden Nash’s haunting “Roundabout” is a study in pensive deliberation in Fasano’s capable
hands; the great Jimmy Webb’s “Time Flies” will open a door into your past, and Alec Wilder & Fran
Landesman’s obscure “Photographs” (a song with which I was not familiar) will surprise you on every
imaginable level.  Throughout Busy Being Free you become aware Fasano is as savvy as she is
sophisticated.  This is a singer who has something to say.  This is a singer who is determined to remain

fiercely herself.  And this is a singer who has perfected being intoxicatingly sublime.

“My favorite new vocal album is Barbara Fasano’s BUSY BEING FREE.  Barbara puts Joni
Mitchell and Jimmy Webb on a level playing field with Jerome Kern and Irving Berlin and
makes them all sound equally terrific.  Though she draws on traditions of cabaret, jazz, and
singer-songwriter pop/folk, the result sounds less like a multi-generic mashup than a
cohesive whole.  Typically outstanding musical direction by John di Martino (and playing
from reed polymath Aaron Heick and that famous cornetist “whinnying Warren” Vache)
completes the package. Wonderful!”~ Author and jazz critic Will Friedwald

“When Barbara Fasano takes on the standards, she does it not only with intelligence and
sophistication but with such emotional involvement that the very vowels are sensuous and
the consonants sexy.”~ David Finkle, Huffington Post

“A much-lauded cabaret artist, known for her big-city smarts; her sultry, purring voice; a
repertoire that spans eras; and a flair for mining overlooked truths and wry humor from
even the most familiar classics. She seems incapable of singing an unintelligent or unmusical
phrase.  This CD, her fourth, was arranged by John di Martino, a jazz pianist who
accompanies with rare sensitivity” 
~ Author, James Gavin

“Barbara Fasano’s BUSY BEING FREE is sheer perfection.  This is a CD from a singer who
has thrilled me from the first time I heard her. Her growth as an artist is immeasurable.  She
is in full command and has established herself as one of the top singers of the day.”~ David Kenney, WBAI Radio

“An exquisite album!  Barbara Fasano is one of a dying species … a jazz singer who gets to
the heart of a lyric.” ~ Composer Philip Springer (“How Little We Know”)

“She wraps herself in a song’s emotions … tasteful, thoughtful phrasing … radiant and
romantic word paintings … dozens of ways of coloring words and phrases with pinpoint
precision … Hints of drama, wariness, and sorrow glimmer below the well-manicured
surface, adding intrigue … Well-steeped and potent.”~ Rob Lester, Talkin’ Broadway

Fasano’s interpretations have their own intimate style and clarity, and I could envision her
singing as if I were in the room … great choice of songs backed by an excellent group of
musicians … much warmth and romance reflected. What a pleasure!”~ William Wolf, New York Calling

“Dance-in-the-living-room romantic … She can sigh a song without making it flimsy, declare
sentiment without weighing it down. Jaunty numbers like her now familiar jazz rendition of
‘The Surrey With the Fringe On Top’ (performed with “a smile in the vocal”) are also included.
‘Hurry On Down’ adds Warren Vache’s cheeky cornet to superb effect.”~ Alix Cohen, Broadway World

“Busy Being Free finds BARBARA FASANO in peak form … an assured singer with a warmly
appealing sound who does full justice to the lyrics of the songs that she performs … exhibits
superb taste … The band is all a singer could want, with each of the players making solid
contributions to the whole … a consistently engaging album by a terrific singer and the cats
who surround her.~Joe Lang, Jersey Jazz Magazine

“Barbara’s vocals on this album retain a jazz aesthetic on a range of familiar standards.
Songs such as Dancing in the Dark, But Beautiful and Alec Wilder and Fran Landesman’s
Photographs are tricky to sing, but Barbara handles them smoothly with smart phrasing and
gorgeous accompaniment.”~Marc Myers, JAZZ WAX

“Barbara Fasano sings with such deeply felt belief in her material that the art she practices is
closer to pure expression than interpretation.  Her take on “Photographs,” in which she
brings at least three levels to the song at the same time, is worth the price of the CD.”~ David Hajdu, The Nation

“BUSY BEING FREE is an appealing mixture of vocal jazz and cabaret. Drawing on influences
ranging from Sarah Vaughan and Lena Horne to Barbra Streisand, Fasano is a thoughtful
interpreter of lyrics … Backed by some heavyweight jazz improvisers, Fasano finds the
jazz/cabaret possibilities in everything from Joni Mitchell’s “Cactus Tree” and Jimmy Webb’s
“Time Flies” to Nellie Lutcher’s &”Hurry On Down”; … Combining vocal jazz and cabaret
standards in a pleasing fashion is clearly Fasano’s strong point and she does well on this
respectable outing.” ~ Alex Henderson, The New York City Jazz Record 

Barbara Fasano was simply glowing on the stage at Birdland when she presented songs
from her new album, Busy Being Free … completely at home in front of an audience, witty …
confident … Her voice is warm, sensuous when called for, and her phrasing is impeccable.
Particularly memorable were her takes on two rarely heard tunes, ‘Roundabout’ by Vernon
Duke and Ogden Nash, and ‘Photographs’ by Alec Wilder and Fran Landesman, both of
which Fasano absolutely nailed.~Joe Lang, Jersey Jazz

“Fasano’s beauty and voice make her a delight to watch and listen to. A highlight of the
performance was a very emotional REMIND ME.”~Ron Forman, Cabaret Scenes

“The sexiest SURREY WITH THE FRINGE ON TOP since Marlene Dietrich.”~Joe Regan, Jr, Theater Pizzazz

“Barbara Fasano is Busy Being Glorious! Barbara Fasano appears to be in second,
shimmering bloom.  Fasano’s acute control seems effortless. Her nimble voice moves as if
choreographed.  The lady clearly loves what she does and is grateful to be able to do it,
a case of communal pleasure.”
~ Alix Cohen, Broadway World 

“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 Di Martino!  What vocals by the compelling and evocative Barbara
Fasano!”  ~Elizabeth Ahlfors, City Cabaret 

“Fasano is interesting because she can spin an already “subtle” song like “Where or When”
and reinvent it to make it what I would call “3-D Subtle” giving you somewhat of a
heightened experience.  I recommend Fasano highly … one of the best shows I have been
to.”~Danielle Miceli, New York Cabaret Today