Fred Aiese
“Ballads, Blues and a Boy from Brooklyn”
Don’t Tell Mama
February 17th & 24th @ 4:30 pm

Some days reviewing is a joy. And today was one of those days. Looking handsome and taking the stage with confidence, it was impossible to tell that this was Fred Aiese’s debut solo show.

He delivered on this show title, “Ballads, Blues and a Boy from Brooklyn” in that the ballads were all stunning and heartfelt, to the point of making me a bit swoony during You Taught My Heart to Sing (Chan/McCoy). The blues kicked “you know what”, on the fantastic Someone Else is Steppin’ Out (Slippin’ Out, Slippin’ in)!  This is one of those old blues tunes that was passed down with no real “authors” noted. The boy from Brooklyn came out in his “New Yawk” accent whenever he spoke. And, he’s also very funny, by the way!

His voice is very diversified. It’s a strong, sexy voice with so many different colors. Sometimes he sounded like a crooner, then he was a New Orleans blues street singer, then a soulful Luther Vandross with a little bit of James Taylor thrown in for good measure! This makes for a very interesting show. Instinctively, he makes different vocal choices by using different parts of his voice, thereby allowing the song to determine what it vocally needs to sound like. This diversity allows us to experience many different colors of his vocal performance. Imagine going to 1 man’s show and getting 4 different and amazing singers! Pretty cool, and worth every penny.

Since Aiese did not provide a song list (Maybe next time, yes?), I will write from memory as best as I can. But, it’s less about the songs (although they were all great to my memory) and more about his performance. When one has a good voice there can be a tendency to just sing big a lot. But Aiese was as laid back as can be, letting great notes just soar out of him. He also gets the jokes, like when he delivered the line, “There’s a smile on my face and YOU didn’t put it there!” In comedy less is more and usually funnier.

I did notice one little “tell”. When he goes really deep in a ballad, he has a tendency to look down rather than out as if he’s not sure about sharing his soul with us past a certain level. You do not hear it in his voice. But, still, we want to see his eyes!

When he’s funny, he’s really funny. But he should continue working on comedic timing.  There’s a “bump” in comedy, a beat that needs to be there sometimes to make it just that much funnier. He’s almost there.

The show stopper was when he paired a swinging and legitimately jazzy version of Route 66 (Bobby Troup) with a Tom Waits tune, delivered like a rap monologue, (that I do not want to spoil for you, should you go to see this show.) It was hypnotic! The pairing of these tunes was genius and the delivery perfect.

You cannot fain or create likability and Aiese is as endearing a man on stage as I have ever seen. He makes you want to know him.

Kudos for the entire show to Music Director, Rick Jensen. What a gift to a singer to be supported and nurtured by this man!

I also want to comment on the Direction of this show. The best compliment that I can give any Director is that, while I know that they are “all over the project”, I don’t really see them…I only see the singer.  Lina Koutrakos, previously known as the “strong woman” director, has certainly always known how to craft the flow of a show, even when employing a slight directorial formula. Now, however, one can tell a “Lina Koutrakos show” by how connected the singer is to the lyric, how the patter feels like the singer’s words (which they are with tweaks by Koutrakos) and by how cleanly the show flows. There is no set “formula” here, only the singer shining in their own light to the best of their ability.

He closed with a number I did not know (song list please) but the “hook” was something about like: “the pleasure was all mine.” No Fred, the pleasure was all ours!

Aiese reprises this show on February 24th at Don’t Tell Mama (listed above). It is well worth a look-see.