Album Remarks & Appraisals:
Sublimely intimate but hugely expressive investigation of the brilliant songs of Cole Porter by the wonderfully artful singer/pianist and composer Patrica Barber. She breathes fresh life into his music as well as contributing three typically intelligent originals. Like her label mate Wilson, Barber is a genuine one off and Cole Porter Mix is un-missable. "One of the most accomplished female jazz singer-pianists on the planet. Chicago-based Barber has a voice that caresses and challenges and cajoles and taunts and teases every nuance of meaning from each ambiguous syllable". The Guardian "Even a casual listener would soon be won over by her seductive voice, her forceful soloing and, not least, her immaculate quartet arrangements". The Times "The most fearless, most intellectually stimulating and, by extension, most interesting singer-songwriterpianist on the American jazz scene." JazzTimes For more than two decades, Barber, based in Chicago, has led her own band and released a series of highly acclaimed, strikingly singular albums, that have seen her recognised as one of the greatest songs tylists on the planet. For her latest album, singer/pianist Barber applies her austere but beautiful heartfelt expressiveness to breath new life into the music of one of the Great American Songbook composers. The Cole Porter Mix not only spotlights her artful interpretations of Porter's songs but also features three Porter-inspired originals. "Cole Porter has always been my songwriting idol," says Barber. "I love his music and I've been singing his songs for so many years." Barber's band includes guitarist Neal Alger, who has been performing with her the past six years, and bassist Michael Arnopol, who has worked with her since 1980. "We're like brother and sister," she says. "We learned jazz together and played all those gigs in Chicago together when I was coming up." Drum duties are shared by Eric Montzka and Nate Smith, while tenor saxophonist Chris Potter guests on five tracks. Barber plays piano throughout as well as contributes melodica colours to some tunes, including her gem, "The New Year's Eve Song," that closes the album. Another original on The Cole Porter Mix is the
" Patricia Barber is absolutely one of a kind. There are any number of jazz vocalists who have good voices, pitch, time, and piano chops; there are others who also sing as if they were looking straight into your eyes. But there is no one who is so consistently iconoclastic, and so deliberately intellectual. Ever since her first CD in 1989, abstract headiness has defined Barber's compositions and delivery; it was the core of her Mythologies release (Blue Note, 2003), a song cycle based on Ovid's "Metamorphoses." Since that project was commissioned by the Guggenheim Foundation, it was necessarily lofty in intent.
The Cole Porter Mix, Barber's tenth CD, is a clear departure from this approach, since it features straightforward renderings of someone else's music. This set mixes ten of Porter's most familiar tunes with three of Barber's, all delivered with the expert, empathic assistance of long-term guitarist Neal Alger and bassist Michael Arnopol. Guest saxophonist Chris Potter adds his impressive tenor to five tunes, and the drum throne is capably shared by Eric Montzka and Nate Smith.
The music is carefully-crafted and intriguing, with fresh and swinging versions of Porter's timeless classics. It begins with the welcoming "Easy to Love," a sunny bossa with a surprising dash of R&B in the vocal. Barber contributes her own clever lyrics to "You're the Top," and interprets "C'est Magnifique" as a moody ballad, removing all traces of the jaunty vaudevillian Maurice Chevalier, who used to own this song. Potter's solos are remarkable, especially on "Just One of Those Things," "Snow," and "The New Year's Eve Song," and he wails like crazy at the end of "In the Still of the Night." Alger's atmospheric use of guitar distortion on "Get Out of Town" adds to the track's ominous throb, while Smith does great brushwork on the sexy "What is This Thing Called Love?."
Although Barber's originals lack the effervescent sparkle of Porter's music, they are always intimate, and full of vivid imagery, and they fit well into this collection. All told, The Cole Porter Mix is Barber at her warmest and most accessible, and it gets richer and deeper with each listening.
tuneful,"intimate, and full of vivid imagery, and they fit well into this collection. All told, The Cole Porter Mix is Barber at her warmest and most accessible, and it gets richer and deeper with each listening." - AllAboutJazz
Down Beat (p.69) - 3.5 stars out of 5 -- "Barber puts her most personal stamp on a program that includes three fetching originals. Barber's take on Porter is definitive, her modern stance with standards still carrying a punch."
JazzTimes (p.58) - "[A]ugmenting the eight Porter gems covered here, Barber adds three of her own compositions, all intended to capture the Cole zeitgeist."
Mojo (Publisher) (p.106) - 4 stars out of 5 -- "Barber and her quartet slow 'I Get A Kick Out Of You' to sensual languor and suffuse 'Miss Otis Regrets' with drama. 'You're The Top' gets a whimsical lyrical update..."
Personnel: Patricia Barber (vocals, melodica, piano); Neal Alger (acoustic guitar, electric guitar); Chris Potter (tenor saxophone); Michael Arnopol (bass instrument); Nate Smith , Eric Montzka (drums, percussion); Eric Montza, Nate Smith (drum, percussion).
Audio Mixer: Jim Anderson .
Recording information: Chicago recording Company (12/15/2007-12/22/2007).
Photographer: Chris Strong.
Pianist and vocalist Patricia Barber has been both criticized and lauded for her unconventional approach to jazz. While cutting a record of standards entitled THE COLE PORTER MIX may seem like Barber's bid for mainstream acceptance, it is anything but. Instead, the artist takes well-worn Porter tunes like "Easy to Love," "I Get a Kick Out of You," and "In the Still of the Night" and deconstructs them with a cool, elegant grace. She also throws in three of her own originals as well. The result invigorates Porter's songbook, rather than slavishly celebrating its familiarity. Help from a crack back-up band, including saxophonist Chris Potter, makes the mix sparkle all the more.
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