A Musical Conversation Both Intellectual and Sensual
But even after the juices start to flow, the musical conversations begun by Ms. Barber, a singer and songwriter as well as a first-rate jazz pianist, revel in the tension between her ivory-tower intellectual rigor and musical sensuality. Ms. Barber's verbose original songs can throw in references from Greek mythology and French philosophy, and use thorny words like "syllogistically" rarely heard in popular songs. The lyrics are sung in a cool, clipped conversational voice that sometimes lowers to a near-murmur.
This songwriting voice, which suggests a literary critic, philosophy student and needling social commentator (her song "Touch of Trash") rolled into one, is the springboard for jazz, whose mood, if not its structure, seeks its antithesis of academic detachment. And the substitution of the vibraphonist and electronic wizard Joe Locke, for Ms. Barber's regular guitarist, Neal Alger, on Thursday evening at Au Bar, pushed her further than usual in that direction.
Mr. Locke, who continues through May 15 after which Mr. Alger returns (through May 15), brought a discreet showmanship to the set. He and Ms. Barber tussled in a playful (and fruitful) power struggle, engaging in games of copycat that reached a peak of contagious euphoria in Dizzy Gillespie's "Groovin' High," a number kicked up an extra notch by Eric Montzka's drums and Michael Arnopol's bass.
arrangement distilled a singular mood. Ms. Barber's "Dansons la
Gigue" wallowed in a dreamy, glowing impressionism with a melancholy
undertone. The Beatles' "Norwegian Wood" evoked a surreal
night of lovemaking in front of an open fire. Fats Waller's "Jitterbug
Waltz" suggest a rapidly rotating musical color wheel, spinning
out sparks. By the time of the encore, a sultry "Light My Fire,"
the heat index was summery.