|Patricia Barber — Smash (2013)|
Patricia Barber — Smash
Born: November 8, 1955
Notable Instruments: Piano
Location: Chicago, Illinois
Album release: January 22, 2013
Record Label: Concord Jazz
01. Code Cool [5:21]
02. The Wind Song [3:43]
03. Romanesque [2:24]
04. Smash [4:21]
05. Redshift [4:26]
06. Spring Song [4:42]
07. Devil's Food [5:09]
08. Scream [5:46]
09. The Swim [4:25]
10. Bashful [6:11]
11. The Storyteller [3:16]
12. Missing [5:20]
Members: John Kregor on guitar, Larry Kohut and/or Patrick Mulcahy on bass, Jon Deitemyer on drums
• Jim Anderson Associate Producer, Engineer, Mixing
• Patricia Barber Composer, Piano, Primary Artist, Producer, Vocals
• Paul Blakemore Mastering
• Kyle Burt Assistant Engineer
• Jon Deitemyer Drums
• Martha Feldman Associate Producer
• Robert Gatley Mixing Assistant
• Mary Hogan A&R
• Dena Katz Photography
• Jimmy Katz Photography
• Larry Kohut Bass
• John Kregor Guitar
• Reggie Marshall Management, Representation
• Nick Phillips Executive Producer
• Pascale Poma Make-Up, Stylist
• Albert J. Roman Art Direction
• Jon Zacks Assistant Engineer
Press contact: Concord Records Mike Wilpizeski Ph: 718-459-2117 Tour Publicity: Kelly Johanns-DiCill 216-464-2313, x2470 www.concordmusicgroup.com
≡ She was born to parents who were both professional musicians; her father is Floyd "Shim" Barber, a former member of Glenn Miller's Band. She was raised in South Sioux City, Nebraska.
≡ She was awarded Guggenheim Fellowship in 2003 in Creative Arts - Music Composition field.
REVIEW ~ Thom Jurek (Rating: ****)
≡ Patricia Barber is a crack jazz pianist, an innovative composer, a singular vocal stylist, and among the most original lyricists/song-poets to come down the pipe in 40 years. Her use of metaphor and metonymy is woven inextricably into her trademark melodies, which create mental and sonic images that evoke insight and emotion. Smash, Barber's debut for Concord, is comprised of original material performed by an excellent band that includes guitarist John Kregor, bassist Larry Kohut, and drummer Jon Deitemyer. ≡ The predominant subject matter of these songs is love's loss: the frustrated desire, grief, acceptance, longing, and healing its aftermath brings. Barber is as empathic and insightful as a depth psychologist. Her language is rich, precise, and devoid of trite sentimentality. Lyrically, these songs are wound with the elastic imagery of poetry, but their rhyme schemes are taut, given air by the fluidity of her jazz. Opener "Code Cool" is introduced by Deitemyer's snare and hi-hat in a constant thrum that emulates the pulse of electronic dance music. It's underscored by a one-note vamp from Kohut. Barber's piano illustrates with a series of glissando chords as Kregor fills the space expressionistically, highlighting the well of images and urgency in lyrics which reference science, Keats, and medical treatment before concluding she is "...Michaelangelo's David/Tested and worn..." Barber employs space between sections, stilling the proceeding with a single chord, before that pulse returns to her protagonist's realization that she needs to fake it until she makes it: "I will live/As if/I were loving." "The Wind Song" is a brooding, mysterious ballad, whose lyric drama is spacious, highlighted by brushed symbols, acoustic guitar, nearly gossamer pianism, and a physical bassline to bind it to earth. In the title track's first half, the piano and bass offer the tender illustration of "the sound of a heart breaking..." But at the halfway point, the physical fury of that emotion is laid bare by Kregor's screaming electric guitar solo, which allows for the held, breathless emotional power in this and all the previous songs, release. The companion piece is "Scream," where a jazz piano ballad opens into a nearly full-blown rocker. "Redshift" is a crystalline bossa nova; its lyrics unite love's loss with physics in clever, hip associations punctuated by a syncopated groove. "Bashful" is a swinging post-bop instrumental that features great soloing by everyone. "Missing" is introduced by Kregor's acoustic and Barber's sparse piano. It's a musically metaphorical illustration of the tune's subject matter: waiting in vain, hoping against hope that the truth of loss isn't, in fact, true. It's raw, vulnerable, and fearful. Kregor's gorgeous solo and Kohut's economical bassline offer room for Barber's piano to illuminate the lyric with tenderness. Smash is an extraordinary achievement. Here, jazz is popular music without being anything other than itself. Its depth, creativity, searing poetry, and artisan musicianship make it a peerless accomplishment.
≡ From her early days leading a jazz trio in small Chicago nightclubs, Patricia Barber has drawn extravagant accolades. The praise came at first from local writers, impressed by her unique arrangements and coolly composed piano improvisations. As she added vocals to her repertoire, the praise poured in from national reviewers intoxicated by her recordings. And when (after years of international touring) she began to focus on her own compositions, kudos arrived from new fans, besotted by her lapidary lyrics and her often indelible imagery.
≡ Since Barber doesn’t consider herself a poet – and since she didn’t want to be a jazz pianist in the first place – you’d have to say things turned out pretty well.
≡ Barber wrote (in Poetry Magazine, in 2005): “I am a songwriter, which is not the same thing as a poet. Poetry is a passion, my ever present guide and inspiration. Though I indulge in very little of the lingua franca of the art. . . . I cannot talk about poetry, but I know poetry. Alone, with logic and diligence, I have studied, but for me art can be created neither by logic nor diligence. Like music, poetry is created in the mouth, in the ear, and in the air.”
≡ That’s an especially nuanced explanation; then again, the gleaming successes of Barber’s art lie in the nuances, the nooks and crannies, of conventional performance. When the veteran music writer Don Heckman (in the Los Angeles Times) called Barber “one of the most utterly individual jazz performers to arrive on the scene in years,” he wasn’t referring to the virtuosic spectacle that comes all too easily to today’s jazz artists; he had homed in on the quiet audacity with which Barber has redefined the role of the singer-songwriter for 21st-century jazz.
≡ Born in the Chicago suburbs, Barber came by music naturally. Her father was Floyd “Shim” Barber, a saxophonist who had worked with Glenn Miller’s orchestra, and the instrument beguiled young Patricia: “When he played the saxophone around the house, I’d put my hand in the bell to feel the music.” She began playing classical piano at the age of 6, but by the time she had graduated high school – in South Sioux City, Iowa, where the family had moved in the mid-60s, following her father’s death – Barber had foresworn jazz entirely. “It was hanging over my head the whole time,” she recalled years later. “But I thought that becoming a jazz musician was such a stupid thing for a woman to do – for a smart woman to do – that I tried to resist it.”
≡ Barber enrolled at the University of Iowa with a double major in classical music and psychology, while continuing to indulge the voracious reading habit she had nurtured since childhood. But the jazz echoes she thought she’d banished only grew louder, and by graduation, she had decided to follow in her father’s path. She returned to Chicago, and in 1984 she landed the gig that put her (and the venue at which she performed) on the national jazz map: five nights a week at the intimate Gold Star Sardine Bar, which held 60 people at the most, but where the audience made up in sophistication what it lacked in size.
≡ Soon her reputation spread beyond Chicago, spurred by enthusiastic response to performances at the Chicago Jazz Festival (1988) and the North Sea Jazz Festival in the Netherlands (1989), culminating in her major label debut (A Distortion Of Love) in 1992. Two years later, she released Café Blue, her debut for the small Premonition label; working with label head and producer Michael Friedman, Barber garnered rave reviews from around the nation, which would quickly become the normal response to each new release.
≡ At about the same time, Barber began a steady engagement at Chicago’s legendary Green Mill (which was owned in the 1920s by a lieutenant of Al Capone’s, and is today considered the city’s leading jazz room); when not on tour, she continues to perform there every Monday night. And, ever the student, Barber returned to academia in the mid-90s to earn her master’s degree in jazz pedagogy from Northwestern University. (She regularly gives master classes in this country and overseas.)
≡ Barber’s first two albums for Premonition made her an international star: despite the label’s tiny size, Barber sold more than 120,000 of the album Modern Cool and even more of the follow-up Nightclub, attracting the attention of Blue Note Records. In 1999 Blue Note started distributing her discs as part of a unique partnership – the first joint imprint in the fabled label’s then-six-decade history. In 2002, Barber moved into an exclusive contract with Blue Note, recording three albums, including Mythologies, a genre-crashing song cycle based on the writings of the ancient Roman poet Ovid; the project was supported by a Guggenheim Fellowship in composition (the first ever awarded to a non-classical “songwriter”).
≡ By then, Barber had secured her place in modern jazz history. Among her contemporaries, only Cassandra Wilson had managed to create a comparable chemistry of new and old standards (catalyzed by uncategorizable originals); and only Diana Krall would match the compound appeal of Barber’s rarefied vocals and pristine piano. In recent years, she has released two volumes of music recorded at the Green Mill, available on her own label.
≡ Now with Smash, her January 22, 2013 debut on Concord Jazz, Barber proves that her poetry continues to search ever deeper, even as her music grows all the more magical.
• Split Premonition Records (1989)
• Distortion of Love Antilles (1992)
• Cafe Blue (Two versions) Blue Note, Premonition Records (1994)
• Modern Cool (Three versions) Blue Note, Premonition Records (1998)
• Companion Blue Note, Premonition Records (1999)
• Nightclub Blue Note, Premonition Records (2000)
• Verse Blue Note, Premonition Records (2002)
• Live: A Fortnight In France Blue Note (2004)
• Live: France 2004 DVD Blue Note (2005)
• Mythologies (Two versions) Blue Note (2006)
• The Premonition Years: 1994-2002 (Three versions:Originals, Standards, Pop songs) Blue Note (2007)
• The Cole Porter Mix; Blue Note (2008)
• Smash; Concord Records (2013) © Photo credits: Jammi York
|Patricia Barber — Smash (2013)|
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