When BARBRA STREISAND was a 19 year old ingenue, she never had a problem performing in front of small crowds. It was her livelihood.

The BROOKLYN girl could only get gigs in clubs that had room for a few dozen people.

As she got more famous she abandoned tiny clubs for grand stages. After a while, it got to the point where she couldn’t perform for a small crowd, even if was an intimate gathering of friends and family.

“I can’t get up and sing when I see faces. I just don’t know how to react. I need blackness to go into my own kind of world,” the legendary singer/actor/director commented.

“It’s disturbing to see people, because if they’re not totally enthralled I’m heartbroken and I get sad and I go, ‘Oh God, what am I doing wrong?“‘

Ms. Streisand didn’t have to worry about that kind of reaction during a weekend performance at the famed VILLAGE VANGUARD, a tiny but historic jazz club in MANHATTAN’S GREENWICH VILLAGE (and where she tried, unsuccessfully, to perform nearly four decades ago).

She wowed a crowd that represented a fraction of her regular audiences, as about 90 fans, including VIPs like former President Bill Clinton, crammed the club.

But Ms. Streisand admitted she was a bit nervous in the days leading up to the event. So why do it?

“It’s an adventure – and yet it’s nostalgic, isn’t it? It’s going back to where I began.”

The same can be said for her new CD LOVE IS THE ANSWER, which was released Tuesday. The album features Ms. Streisand singing classics like IN THE WEE SMALL HOURS OF THE MORNING and SMOKE GETS IN YOUR EYES.

But while the material may have been familiar to her, the recording process was not.

For the first time, she worked with jazz artist DIANA KRALL as producer – and did it DIANA’S way. She performed with DIANA’S quartet of musicians first, then added orchestration later, instead of her usual practice of performing with an orchestra at the outset.

(The deluxe edition of the CD features both the quartet performances and the orchestra versions.)

But even though DIANA was the producer, Ms. Streisand – the album’s executive producer – was clear about what she wanted.

“She’s the director. She’s Barbra Streisand,” DIANA stated in an interview earlier this year.

“She knows what she wants and it’s been really fun to see her work with the band that I’ve worked with.”

The album is Ms. Streisand’s first studio production since 2005’S ONE VOICE with BARRY GIBB. She worried that her vocal chords might have been strained. Construction on a house left her hoarse as she shouted over the din of the noise.

“When I tried to sing I just couldn’t make any of the notes. But for some reason all of a sudden I had a voice. What was exciting was that my voice was there.”

Though Ms. Streisand recently toured Europe and famously returned to the stage for a tour in 2006 after a 12 year hiatus, she has no plans to tour for her new CD. She recalled a recent dinner with Coldplay’s Chris Martin, where the rock singer told her his group tour their records for two years.

Ms. Streisand said she couldn’t imagine doing that: “I get bored singing the same songs.”

In fact, if she had her way, she wouldn’t do much to promote her latest CD. She has only done a handful of interviews. This one took place not at her record label but at the Clinton Global Initiative, an annual event started by the former president that focuses on solving problems including climate change, poverty, health and education.

Yet Ms. Streisand took special satisfaction in her VANGUARD gig. Despite some reports, she said that she had never officially performed there decades ago but only auditioned briefly for the club’s then owner, Max Gordon, when her good friend Rick Edelstein asked him to listen to her (and got Miles Davis’ band to stand in as backup).

When Max Gordon told Rick Edelstein that she was “too undisciplined” to hire, he replied: “But she’s gonna really be big some day. You’re gonna have to pay her big money.”

Max Gordon’s reply? “What do you know? You’re a waiter.”

The story still brings a smile to Ms. Streisand’s face nearly 40 years later.

“At least I did audition there and didn’t get the job.”

“Now I got the job.”

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