"Einstein would concur
Trajectories are curved
Things aren’t what they were
Or where we left them
Heisenberg was right
Fixing speed and site
For all who love are
Blind is unwise and uncertain."
These words are from Patricia Barber's song Redshift from the album Smash(Concord 2015), on the programme last night, and which must surely win the prize for the most intellectual and diversionary break-up song ever. (on video here) The pay-off at the end is VERY clever indeed. Yup, I'm a fan. I was lucky enough to hear her in Montreal a couple of years ago. That performance, with a larger band in a 1,400-seater theatre could not be given fewer than five stars. (Telegraph review here). Which absolutely made up for a rather more problematic evening at Ronnie Scott's in 2012 (reviewed here)
I heard the third and last date of a 2017 mini-tour of the South-Eastern UK. It was one of those totally assured and individual and confident performances. Patricia Barber has a weekly in residency at the Green Mill in Chicago, and is totally at ease in the club situation, confiding with the audience, but also maintaining a certain hauteur. She performed her normal mixture of originals, song covers and instrumental jazz standards.
Just a few highlights from last night: Bill Withers' Use Me, which gave the limelight to an excellent young rhythm team of Australian-born bassist Patrick Mulcahy and drummer Nate Friedman, is a Barber staple, and in her interpretation it is darker and more subtly menacing than the original. The opener I Hear A Rhapsody brought out what a persuasive and eloquent pianist Barber is; she gave a lovely tribute to Marian McPartland's influence and importance at the end of the show. Sinatra's This Town, more of a riff and an idee fixe than a song, also stays intriguingly, hauntingly in the mind.
Barber needs to be heard, and it is a feather in the caps of the enterprising folk of the Watermill and Pizza Express that they were able to give London and Dorking audiences - which last night gave her a standing ovation - the opportunity to hear one of the best secrets of the Uptown area of Chicago. Build that tour. A song such as Morpheus, with all kinds of allusions to Greek mythology, would go down a storm in Oxford or Cambridge. Bring her back!
Review by Sebastian Scotney. Photos from the Watermill by Brian O'Connor