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Janet Seiz

Janet Seiz

If we strip musicians' life stories to their bare essentials, there aren't that many basic narratives in the history of jazz. Most include elements of tragedy. "Brilliance recognized early, but life cut short." "Originality sacrificed for popularity." "Toiled in obscurity, appreciated only when gone."

Patricia Barber's story, in contrast, is one from which artists of all kinds can take courage. Call it "Pursued unique vision until audience at last ready." She's spent two decades honing …