An Interview with Patricia Barber

New release Mythologies combines jazz and Greek mythology

Listen to the interview (9:10)

Omaha, Nebraska – Patricia Barber has long been an important voice on the progressive jazz scene. Barber, an internationally acclaimed pianist, vocalist and composer, was awarded a Guggenheim Fellowship in 2003, the only songwriter ever to be so awarded. She took the opportunity to create one of the most ambitious works of her career. Barber brings her compositional sophistication to new heights with Mythologies, a song cycle based on Greek mythology where each of the 11 apocryphal characters in Ovid's Metamorphoses are fleshed out in music.
Selections on the new disc include The Moon, Icarus (for Nina Simone), Phaeton, Whiteworld/Oedipus, and others.
The record features Patricia's band of Neal Alger on guitar, Michael Arnapol, bass, Eric Montzka on drums and Barber at the piano and vocals. The record features special guests Jim Gailloreto on saxophone, as well as Choral Thunder, directed by Shelby Webb, Jr., providing background vocals, and other guest vocalists including noted progressive jazz vocalist Grazyna Auguscik.
Patricia Barber is an accomplished jazz pianist/vocalist/composer, well known for her witty, intellectual songs which take the listener into unexpected musical territory, embracing songs extracted from the jazz and pop worlds, as well as from her own pen.
Born the daughter of Floyd "Shim" Barber, a saxophonist who worked with the Glenn Miller Orchestra, Patricia began playing classical piano at the age of 6. Initially deciding to avoid the pitfalls she feared awaiting a woman in jazz, Patricia enrolled at the University of Iowa with studies in classical piano and psychology. The muse was too hard to resist, however, and Patricia moved back to Chicago to play jazz and in 1984 launched her career, playing five nights a week at the Gold Star Sardine Bar.
Years of dedication and an "independently poor" lifestyle began to pay off in 1994, with the release of Caf? Blue on Premonition Records, and a move to the Green Mill, hailed by many as the nerve center of the Chicago jazz scene. Wide national and international acclaim began to follow in the late 1990's, with a series of tours which continues to this day as Patricia and her band criss cross the globe, performing her fiercely independent brand of artistically rich jazz.
In 2004 Barber brought her band to the Iowa City Jazz Festival for an exciting set of music, warmly received by the audience. The set featured many of her original compositions as well as popular favorites. Last Call Host Chris Cooke spoke with Barber the day after the performance. Click on the link at the top of this page to listen to that interview.