PATRICIA BARBER: ‘The Cole Porter Mix’ (Label: Blue Note)

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PATRICIA BARBER: 'The Cole Porter Mix'

Like a whispered confession from someone who is privy to a terrible and guilty secret, there’s something dark and unnerving in the way the Chicago-born jazz singer and pianist Patricia Barber’s delivers a lyric. When she sings “get out of town, my love, before it’s too late” on one of the songs from this new album, she comes across like a femme fatale in a ’40s noir film – her sultry contralto voice caresses each word in a deeply sensual way that positively oozes sex and danger. It’s an explosive combination and certainly, there’s something uniquely subversive about Barber and the way she approaches the art of jazz singing, especially when she’s doing standards. On this new album, where, in the main, she recasts some of Cole Porter’s most famous tunes (including ‘I Get A Kick Out Of You’ and ‘Easy To Love’), she transforms her source material to the extent that her radical realizations makes the listener perceive them in a new way. A case in point is an unusual but highly arresting version of ‘What Is This Thing Called Love,’ which is transmogrified into a dark piece of brooding introspection. Barber’s treatment of Porter’s ‘Miss Otis Regrets’ is similarly ear-catching, beginning with an a capella lead vocal that’s later underpinned by syncopated percussive rimshots. The addition of jagged shards of fuzz-toned electric guitar helps create a grippingly disturbing atmosphere. Barber also includes three self-penned tunes, whose wit, musical sophistication and intelligence not only reflect Porter’s undoubted influence but also herald the coming of age of one of the most original voices and songwriters in jazz.
(CW) 4/5