Last Call CD Review: Patricia Barber / Smash / Concord
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. Her ability to craft sophisticated lyrics has been documented on a series of fine recordings, which continued until some years ago.
Fans of her artistry will be delighted to listen to her return. Smash is another artistic triumph for Barber, who dazzles the listener with a program of a dozen compositions. This new recording is Barber's debut for Concord with a band that includes guitarist John Kregor, bassist Larry Kohut, and drummer Jon Deitemyer. The band explores deep material, love & loss, with creativity, and searing poetry. The album's opener, "Code Cool", is an exploration of the experience of traumatic brain injury. "Redshift" is inspired by Barber's research into the creation process for a star. The new record reunites Barber with recording engineer Jim Anderson and the results are sublime.
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 waiting 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 Café 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.
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. Smash will further cement that well-deserved reputation.