Review: Patricia Barber at Ronnie Scott’s

Patricia Barber. Drawing by Geoff Winston. All RightsReserved

Patricia Barber Trio
(Ronnie Scott’s. 17th Sept 2012. First night of two. Review Sebastian Scotney, Drawings Geoff Winston)

Patricia Barber performs most Mondays at the Green Mill on North Broadway in Chicago. You can hear her there,apparently,  for just seven dollars. In London she hasn’t appeared for six years. Most aspects of her performance are nailed well in this review by Howard Reich of the Chicago Tribune. She created last night exactly what Howard Reich describes so well: “the most hushed audience you’ll encounter at a club otherwise known for its palpable energy.”  Reich also mentions the forthcoming record on Concord which Patricia Barber mentioned too. Sounds interesting.

The first song was a Jobim Triste which had her exploratorily, detachedly scatting over what sounded like Welsh consonant sounds. Then the mood really got set. Just take a look a the edgy lyrics of For Company. Barber as a songwriter – and, unusually, sometimes disquietingly – as performer too, has what Grahame Greene said writers should have, the ‘sliver of ice’ in her heart. It creates detachment, displacement. At its best it brings a unique concentration. She is also a highly resourceful and melodic acutely listening pianist, and shows consideration and gives space to her band colleagues.

Patricia Barber Trio. Drawing by Geoff Winston.. All Rights Reserved

  The unfamiliarity of the setting seemed to faze her a bit. She was also dealing with the vicissitudes not just of two iPads but also of an unfamiliar piano, and that created a certain tension last night. She mused at one point :”it occurs to me that the piano and I have yet to make peace with each other.” But she did have the trusty companionship of two regular band members. Bassist Larry Kohut is the kind of player who lets the sound really resonate off the one. Nice. Guitarist John Kregor appeared slightly inhibited, preferring to hold back on the volume and not frighten the horses by projecting himself as the full-on guitar hero he probably can be.

The high points were special. Cole Porter’s You’re the Top starts saccharine-y, but Barber’s new contemporary words have the bite of a cobra. The sleepless displacement of the lover alone in Till You Call (it might not actually be called that?) were poignant. My hunch is that her second night tonight, after a day acclimatizing to us Brits and our strange accents and habits will be better, more projected, more straightforward, maybe even a classic. Go.

Categories: miscellaneous

4 replies »

  1. Great show, we travelled down from Staffordshire and our first time back in Ronnie's since 1979 (shame on me) – Yes, jittery start, some great songs, the piano was crap and needs a polish as well. She deserves better, would love to be there tonight – unmissable

  2. Spot on review, as always, Sebastian. Your hunch was correct: in my opinion the second night was better. It was certainly more consistent although the “highs” on Monday (especially her closing song “The Moon”) may have been higher than the next night. On Tuesday, PB seemed more confident and that was matched by a more positive reaction from the audience.
    The Tuesday set-list:
    So What?
    Someday My Prince Will Come
    Unidentified song
    A Touch Of Trash
    Unidentified (samba by Jobim I think)
    You're The Top
    Missing (that's the “Till You Call” song)
    Encore: Light My Fire

  3. Just occurred to me – almost a week after the event – that the “samba” was actually “Blue Bossa” by Kenny Dorham.

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