Patricia Barber Plays SRO AXPONA Gig

True, there were no seats so everyone had to stand, but Patricia Barber and her accompanying trio played to an appreciative, but foot-weary full house in the O'Hare Westin ballroom Friday evening.

Barber, whose overexposure (like that of Diana Krall and a few others) has produced an unfair backlash among some audio enthusiasts, demonstrated that she is an artist worthy of serious consideration and not a flash-in-the-audiophile-community-pan.

Accompanied by a trio of young, highly accomplished and creative musicians, Barber, barefooted as always, began the set with an inventive take on Thelonious Monk's "Rhythm-a-ning" so seriously reworked that it took a while to identify, even as its rhythmic shifts were immediately familiar.

The composer, performer and band leader still calls performing home Chicago's intimate The Green Mill nightclub, yet she still managed to draw in the ballroom crowd and produce an engrossing hour and a half of engaging music without performing any of the commercial covers that originally attracted a loyal following.

After about forty-five minutes of relatively lengthy pieces she rightly gave each accompanist a chance to shine in a duet and each one produced memorably.

Playing electric for the group numbers and sounding most influenced by John McLaughlin and Robert Fripp, guitarist John Kregor emerged from backstage for his solo turn with an acoustic guitar (might have been a Martin) and performed a richly colored Spanish-style, lush and romantic turn accompanied by Barber. It was a set highlight.

Next up was bassist Patrick Mulcahy who accompanied Barber on a slow, sensuous cover of the Motown classic "I'm Gonna Make You Love Me"originally performed by The Temptations and then by The Supremes and the Temptations. A mid-song break gave Mulcahy an opportunity to take a daring, ingenious solo that took the evening's greatest musical risk.

Finally Barber summoned drummer Jon Deitmeyer. The two clearly enjoyed the interplay on a tune I unfortunately can't recall because I was too busy enjoying to take notes.

Among the set's highlights was a deliciously nasty take on the Cole Porter tune "Get out of Town" in which the singer eventually requests a former lover to not just get out of town, but to get out of the country. Barber extracted from the tune both maximum retribution and humor.

Sometimes hi-fi show appearances by groups are soulless, inspiration-free walk-throughs for the money, but in this case Barber and the group were embarking the next morning on a short, four performance tour of France and the evening seemed to provide a good opportunity for group and individual chance-taking.

azmoon's picture

Never seen her live but have all her LPs. Way more creative than Diana Krall (have her LPs also). Yeah, her stuff is sonically superior than lots of other recordings, but there is much more to her than that.

John Macca's picture

How much I miss Ella and Billie!

vinyl listener's picture

barber, krall and other audiophile babes put me to sleep

AnalogJ's picture

Diana Krall is a pretty empty singer. She has piano chops, but it's mostly technique. In terms of having something really interesting to say as a musician and vocalist, there's not much there there. For background listening and to fall asleep to, fine. She sings in tune and doesn't do anything too offensive.

Patricia Barber, on the other hand, whom I have known for a long time, is always trying to find her way to interpret a piece of music that is not her own. Will you like it? Can't say, but she is certainly a more challenging listen. She does not serve her music up on a silver platter.

I have probably seen her a half-dozen times, and if you have the patience to listen to her intently, there is SO much there. I'm glad you had the chance to see her live.

azmoon's picture

But we also miss Louie, Miles, Evans, etc. That doesn't mean Barber is no good because she is no Ella or Billie. Who is?