Patricia Barber is a talented jazz singer and pianist. With her father, Floyd “Shim” Barber, being a former saxophonist of Glenn Miller’s Band, music comes naturally to Patricia. As a result of her poetry-like lyrical style that often involves an unusual and complex vocabulary, and the creation of intelligent pieces of work, she has become an icon in the world of jazz. She has been recording music since the late eighties, and now she is releasing her twelfth album, Smash; her debut for the Concord Jazz label. The cover of Smash shows Barber’s confidence as she stares straight at you on a city sidewalk at night, and when listening to the album, you realize she brings her confidence to these songs too.
The album, which is just short of an hour running time, is a great jazz record full of emotions. The title track, “Smash,” is one of the best on the album. Barber’s quiet singing and low piano playing conveys sincerity in the singer’s voice. Patricia can deliver an abundance of emotion without singing at the top of her lungs. With her style of singing, the listener can absorb and appreciate each word of the lyrics and their meanings. About half-way through the song the intensity picks up with an amazing guitar solo expectantly breaking in, and lasting through the second half of the song. It is a great build up and close to the song.
“Devil’s Food” is another track that deserves a listen. The song has a very smooth, cool feeling, and is the most unique sounding track on Smash, and by unique I mean the second half of the song starts sounding more like disco than jazz. This, however, doesn’t take away from the song’s quality; it adds to its listenability, which is what makes Patricia Barber so talented at what she does.
Another great track is “Redshift.” This song, as well as all the songs on the album, is saturated with Barber’s iconic poetic lyrics. The song has a simple, but emotional melody with piano and guitar complementing Barber’s softly-sweet voice.
Smash is a delight for any jazz fan. Patricia Barber is one of the best jazz singers to come along in the last twenty years, and her latest release shows why. Fans of Patricia Barber will not be disappointed with this release. While anybody outside the jazz world will probably not be able to appreciate this album, individuals who enjoy jazz music will indeed enjoy Patricia Barber, and will want to own this album. With Smash, Patricia Barber smashes this one out of the park.
Key Tracks: Smash, Devil’s Food, Redshift