Patricia Barber’s Concord Jazz debut, Smash, is a good first effort for Barber on her latest outing. Barber already has a long list of releases under her belt. This album though takes listeners on quite the journey. It’s not what one might expect when one thinks of the concept of a jazz album. It is very much a progressive jazz album, as evidenced through the likes of the jazz fusion style of ‘Devil’s Food’, the album’s title track and its opener, ‘Code Cool.’ Musically speaking, the album’s title track sounds more akin to a Pink Floyd song than any jazz piece. Lyrically though, it shows a certain something about it as she writes about someone suffering from a broken heart. Her comments about the song really wrap the whole song together. “It just struck me as it does everyone else who experiences great loss, that on the outside, no one can tell”, she explains. “You go to the grocery store, and everything’s the same, which is shocking. It struck me that this is the sound of a heart breaking: silence. You’re alone. And I felt that this was an interesting juxtaposition, since the sound of a heart breaking should be the loudest, screamiest, shriekiest combination of sounds there could be.” Understanding this, it gives the song and even its name, ‘Smash’ more significance. Considering how many oh-woe-is-me style songs of lost love abound in today’s music industry, it’s nice believe it or not to have such a realistic song that touches on the subject. It proves to be one of the album’s best songs believe it or not.
Another one of the more interesting songs on Barber’s new album is the song, ‘Devil’s Food.’ It’s another prime example of what makes this album so interesting both in its musical side and that of its lyrical side. Musically, it bears more of an old school jazz/funk style than something more modern. Some audiences might even notice the homage paid by guitarist John Kregor to a certain classic funk song. Audiences can find that out what that reference is for themselves when they pick up the album. Considering the musical throwback on this song, its lyrical side is a total juxtaposition. The song, as noted by Barber, is a commentary on what was one of 2012’s biggest debates in the legalization of gay marriage. Who would have ever thought that a jazz artist would use her art to comment on such a hard hitting social and political topic? Yet again, this isn’t exactly what one would expect when one thinks of jazz musicians, even today. Once again, Barber has taken the road not just less traveled, but far less traveled. Once again she has crafted a song that as part of a whole makes her new album that much more intriguing to experience.
Just as intriguing as the already mentioned pieces from this standout album is the album’s opener, ‘Code Cool.’ This song is equally ear opening (yes, ear opening) both musically and lyrically. Musically, it’s the sort of song to which fans of Diana Krall will gravitate. Lyrically, it tends to be somewhat cryptic in its writing. Barber writes in this song, “I square dance slow/make love with my lips/read eyes like books/read books like science/I remember and fix/citation to case/case to form/discombobulation and I/can cook up a storm/I’m Michelangelo’s David/tested and worn.” It’s anyone’s guess as to what she could be referencing here. But that it can generate just as much discussion as the album’s other tracks (including the science-centric ‘Red Shift’) make one more point to which listeners can say this album is worth at least one listen.
Fans will get their chance to hear these songs and plenty more as Barber is currently touring in support of her new album. She will be performing in Boston, MA tomorrow night. She’s following tomorrow’s performance with a two night stand at New York’s Jazz Standard. Even more dates are already scheduled. To find out when and where Barber will be performing and to keep up with all the latest news from her, audiences can go online to http://www.patriciabarber.com, http://www.facebook.com/PatriciabarberMusic, http://twitter.com/pbjazzmusician, and on YouTube at http://www.youtube.com/user/PatriciaBarberJazz.
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