Friday, 5 February 2010


by Patricia Barber
Many jazz fans have lost the ability to imagine the future, yet anything innovative in jazz vocals has taken place in spite of people lamenting the loss of Sarah, Peggy, Carmen, and Ella. People try to appropriate, copyright and own the music, but it refuses to be contained. In spite of the people who don’t want to see music change, it finds its way like water coursing through rocks.

She does not conform to any of “female jazz singer” clichés. Especially so on Verse. There are no “standards” — all songs are written by Ms Barber except for Dansons La Gigue (which is based on a poem of Paul Verlaine and sung in French). Barber’s own lyrics is miles away from the usual stuff that jazz singers nowadays (are supposed to) sing. In words of Matt Collar, “it could be considered serious modern poetry if only it didn’t rhyme.” And boy, can she play piano.

If I Were Blue
if i were blue
like David Hockney’s pool
dive into me and glide
under a California sky
inside your mouth and nose and eyes am i

if i were blue
like Edward Hopper’s afternoon
lift the sash to air the breeze
let my summer flush your cheek
lie supine beneath the soft and gentle season

would that this were that
this is more like black
dark as darkest indigo
sickly sweet and ripe
like nothing
smothering light

bring on the pelting rain
palpable sensual pain
like Goya in his studio
in the thick of night
absence is
dull and silent

if i were blue
a pale Picasso blue
as beauty is to sorrow
let me cover you in sleep
and in your melancholy i would give you peace
if i were blue

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