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Live: A Fortnight in France by Patricia Barber

Patricia Barber along with Kurt Elling, one of the jazz finds from Chicago who have broadened the musical palette of Blue Note is recording her first CD solely for Blue Note. It brings together elements from her previous Premonition/Blue Note releases that have presented her as one of the most innovative singer/songwriters currently recording. Furthermore, Barber has been performing so consistently in engagement after engagement with her current quartet that their interactions are by now instantaneous and their solos are dramatic and still explorative. Live: A Fortnight In France includes some of the original material of Verse that stunned into awareness the listeners who hadn’t already been enthralled by her talent, simultaneously understated in vocal execution and vibrant in unpredictable imagination. Live: A Fortnight In France offers the excitement of a live performance, complete with audience reaction, that was heard on Companion. Live: A Fortnight In France provides Barber’s fresh perspective upon covers, including a deepening of feeling for the lyrics of a pop convection from the sixties, "Call Me," not to mention a tornadic version of The Beatles’ "Norwegian Wood" that the group plays often in concert. Live: A Fortnight In France makes evident Barber’s cultural absorption, as she sings "Dansons La Gigue!" in French, showing respect for her audience at La Cigale in Paris, and identifying with the French audiences who welcomed her because, as she puts it, "they’re not cloying." Barber has gained such recognition for the piquancy of her songwriting skills that she received a Guggenheim Fellowship to write songs based on Ovid’s Metamorphosis.

A musical documentation of the Barber quartet’s two weeks performing in Metz, La Rochelle and Paris as recently as March, 2004 proving the speed of Blue Note’s production and marketing when focused on a project Live: A Fortnight In France includes some things available previously heard, like "Pieces" from Verse, and some things brand new, like "Whiteworld," part of her Metamorphosis project.

Now that Barber has earned a reputation as an intriguing songwriter, one wonders whether her French audiences were fully aware of the subtleties of her lyrics, like: "Call me a doctor/Or a structural engineer/Draft me a past and a future/The consent to adhere/Give me a pill that makes cohesion/A pharmacological thing/Bring me the tape and the twine/The blueprint design." Yet, those same lyrics, with their metaphorical implications, are what distinguish Barber from anyone else presently recording, even though hearing them for the first time in a foreign language may cause a deeper analysis of the lyrics than the first impression allows.

Even so, there’s still the music to excite the audiences, for Barber, backed by guitar, bass and drums, is an exhilarating pianist as well, able to create tension over extended choruses before final release and resolution. On "Crash," she accomplishes this with the sprinkling of dissonances along with guitarist Neal Alger before the eventual settling down into a funk rhythm. "Laura," sung, is slow, moody, ruminative and dark, performed at leisure as if the notes and words were spontaneously occurring. On the other hand, "Witchcraft," conjured up through piano trio, comes across with a straight-ahead swing that comes across as a contrast to the edginess of the other songs, as if conventional arrangements were the unexpected in a Patricia Barber concert.

The word for Patricia Barber is "intriguing." Her songs always contain intriguing new ways to view a situation or an emotion. Her arrangements, allowing the space for improvisation by all of her group’s members, follow intriguing build-ups of intensity and meaning. And her albums continue to introduce intriguing new concepts, keeping her music fresh and her listeners in anticipation. Live: A Fortnight In France contains all of that, with the additional revelation of Barber’s growing international appeal as well.

Additional Info

  • Artist / Group Name: Patricia Barber
  • CD Title: Live: A Fortnight in France
  • Genre: Jazz Vocals
  • Year Released: 2004
  • Record Label: Blue Note
  • Tracks: Gotcha, Dansons La Gigue!, Crash, Laura, Pieces, Blue Prelude, Witchcraft, Norwegian Wood, Whiteworld, Call Me
  • Musicians: Patricia Barber (vocals/piano), Neal Alger (guitar), Michael Arnopol (bass), Eric Montzka (drums)
  • Rating: Five Stars
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