Jazz CD Reviews

Patricia Barber – Smash – Concord Jazz

Musical ideas that defy categorization.

Published on January 22, 2013

Patricia Barber – Smash – Concord Jazz

Patricia Barber – Smash – Concord Jazz CJA 33676-02, 55:05 ***:

(Patricia Barber – vocals & piano; John Kregor – guitars; Larry Kohut – bass; Jon Deitemyer – drums)

In an interview with R.J. Deluke for the website All About Jazz dated March 1,2004 Patricia Barber is quoted as saying:”I probably would sell more records if I did things in a different way, but then I wouldn’t be happy.” Presumably Concord Jazz Records were aware of this quotation when they signed her to a contract to debut on the label for her release entitled Smash.

In this twelve track session filled with Barber originals, the themes are love and loss, pain and sorrow, boy meets boy, girl meets girl, all of which are integral to the acknowledged life-style orientation of which she is a part. Singer-songwriters always have a considered and sympathetic approach to their own material, as they have more emotion tied into the interpretation of the compositions. Patricia Barber is no exception and she does have wonderful vocal skills to help carry this off.

On most albums, there is usually one track which is a hook, or key as you will, to the balance of the session. Get that, and the disc falls into place. That did not happen here, at least for me. So while the singing, playing, and arrangements  are first rate, it is the material itself that is lacking. While not necessarily self-indulgent, it is not the stuff of the traditional rhyming couplets, but more  poetic and dense. For example on the title track ”Smash” Barber offers: ”the crumbling of tall castles built/ on kisses and blood/and dreams so like sand”.

Barber’s song-writing efforts continue with similarly structured pieces such as the quirky “Devil’s Food”, the inter-stellar “Redshift” and on “Romanesque” opening with the line “light as a crystal that flows to the sea/ you stood like sand away from me”. Clearly Barber is looking for new musical ideas using clever original verse that defies categorization. Whether this will actually sell records remains to be seen.

TrackList: Code Cool; The Wind Song; Romanesque; Smash; Redshift; Spring Song; Devil’s Food; Scream; The Swim; Bashful; The Storyteller; Missing

—Pierre Giroux




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