180 Gram Vinyl Record
Higher is Patricia Barber's first new recording in six years. It merges jazz harmonies and rhythms with classical art song and erudite poetry, and features "Angels, Birds And I ..." — an ambitious song cycle — alongside a few jazz standards.
The long wait wasn't because the Chicago-based pianist/singer/songwriter decided to slack off. "I mean, I did take time out for the 2016 election, which I worked on very hard — and also the 2018 election," says Barber, who continued to perform regularly during her recording hiatus. "But that was the only lag time. It just took me that long to write this music."
The centerpiece of Higher is an eight-part song cycle entitled "Angels, Birds, and I ...," covering love, beauty and loss but delving leagues beneath any surface clichés. The term "song cycle" doesn't come up much in jazz, and "singer-songwriter" — widely seen as a pop and folk species — shows up even less. But Barber has spent more than half her career skewing convention or shunning it entirely; her lyrics boast tightly woven similes and eidetic imagery.
Expanding her boundaries even further on Higher helps explain the time spent making the album, which features her working trio plus guitar and saxophone. Barber set herself the lofty goal of writing art songs that could be credibly performed by both jazz and classical artists — songs that don't so much fall between those camps, but seem to exist outside the campgrounds altogether. The poster child for this concept is "The Opera Song," a comic jewel of a character study that appears twice on the album.
Patricia Barber, piano, voice
Patrick Mulcahy, bass
Jon Deitemyer, drums
Neal Alger, acoustic guitar
Jim Gailloreto, tenor saxophone
Katherine Werbiansky, lyric soprano
|3. Pallid Angel|
|4. The Opera Song|
|1. High Summer Season|
|2. The Albatross Song|