Verse is Patricia Barber's seventh album since her 1989 debut, Split
, on the little known and poorly distributed Floyd Records, named after her musician father, Floyd Barber. Her second album, A Distortion of Love
, was released on the Verve Antilles label and did not appear until three years later, but it brought the Chicago-based singer to public attention. Since 2000 she has been on the esteemed Blue Note label.
No one sounds like Barberwhich, of course, is what you want from a jazz singer. Her vocal phrasing, rhythm and timbre are unique. Barber is an idiosyncratic song stylist whose originals are often more interesting that her interpretations of the Great American Songbook. Despite that fact, Verse is her first CD comprised of all original material. It is also her best and is, in fact, a brilliant recording. The critics agree. Don Heckman, writing for the L.A. Times, called Verse a "career-defining collection" and a "remarkable accomplishment." A recent issue of JazzTimes magazine called it "a brilliant collections of songs."
The songs are brilliant, insightful and literate, and they present ten views on the variations of love and relationships. Barber opens with "The Moon," a most unusual and intriguing song, written almost in haiku form. It contains a brilliant trumpet solo by Dave Douglas. The second selection, "Lost in This Love," features a series of questions that comprise a lively salute to the sweet confusion of newly minted infatuation. It is written in an offbeat meter that, surprisingly, works very well. Barber follows with "Clues," a hypnotic examination of the obvious hints we all fail to recognize ("the slam of the door; the shift of an eye") when romance begins to decompose.
On the clever "I Could Eat Your Words," Barber lights a flame to create one of the more unusual, and yet sensual, love songs ever composed. ("I'll drink remorse like a cabernet/Guilt like garlic needs to saut"). "If I Were Blue" may be the most accessible song in this collection. It simply shimmers and could be a standard in the making. Also noteworthy is "You Gotta Go Home" which is about an increasingly exasperating lover who has more than overstayed her welcome. It's a colorful and witty yarn ("a sexy month or two/now I'm stuck with you/you just gotta go").
This superior CD features trumpeter Dave Douglas and drummer Joey Baron, along with Barber's longtime touring group, guitarist Neal Alger, bassist Michael Arnopol and drummer Eric Montzka.
Verse was also produced by Barber and, fortunately, she assumed full control of the final product. Integrity and maintaining an artistic vision are important to her. She is very proud of this CD - - and rightfully so. Patricia Barber has raised the bar for songwriters, whatever the genre.
Personnel: Patricia Barber - vocals, piano, Fender Rhodes
Neal Alger - guitars
Michael Arnopol - bass
Joey Baron - drums (1-4, 6-10)
Dave Douglas - trumpet
Eric Montzka - drums (5)
Cliff Colnot String Ensemble (2)