Patricia Barber is an inventive singer, songwriter and pianist, whose recordings and performances ease listeners away from the mainstream, yet she remains grounded in the jazz standards.
"I think audiences appreciate a different version of standards," the singer says in an interview from her Chicago home.
Barber, who performs June 18 at the TD Winnipeg International Jazz Festival leading a quartet, will perform new material from her recent CD release, Smash, but "I love standards," she adds.
"My songs have more to do with standards than you think," she says, "but if channelled through me, it all sounds like me."
Barber will be accompanied in Winnipeg by guitarist Dave Miller, bassist Patrick Mulcahy and drummer Jon Deitemyer.
The singer and pianist maintains a regular Monday night gig at Chicago's Green Mill Jazz Club whenever she is in town. And Chicago is a good place to look for bright, younger musicians, she says.
"Chicago has a rich culture of musicians who are coming up," she says. "I have three bass players, each as good as the other."
Her new recording Smash marks a return to a major label for Barber. She says she was content being independent after she sought a release from the Blue Note label, but Concord Music came calling and "I said 'Let's do one.'"
Smash, a 12-tune disc, her 12th, is another great Barber recording.
The theme is lost love and Barber's lyrics and voice make it real. In the title track when she sings, "This is the sound / of a heart breaking" over tender piano and bass, you know it's true. But just to be sure, it's followed by a screaming guitar solo that approximates a heart rending.
Barber has a place of her own in jazz singing: no one matches her lyrics, the melodies she writes to match those lyrics, or her musical inventiveness.
Barber will start a series of European dates next weekend in Portugal that will see her quartet visit Germany, Turkey, The Netherlands and Norway until late May.
After June concerts in the United States and Canada, she'll take July and August off. "I don't like to be in European festivals when it's hot," she says. She likes to swim and tend her large garden, which her family eats from most of the year.
She has a small apartment in Chicago and a home on 17 acres of mostly wetlands forest with two acres fenced off as a large garden.
The Patricia Barber Quartet performs June 18 at the West End Cultural Centre. Tickets are $28. Other mainstage shows include: Rudresh Mahanthappa's Gamak, June 17, WECC; Bettye Lavette, June 19, Burton Cummings Theatre; Preservation Hall Jazz Band, June 20, the Burt; Jane Monheit, June 21, the Burt; The Roots, June 22, Centennial Concert Hall; Courtney Pine, June 22, WECC; and George Benson, June 23, the Burt.
Tickets for the TD Winnipeg International Jazz Festival, which runs June 13-23, are available at jazzwinnipeg.com, 204-989-4656 and at the Jazz Winnipeg office (007-100 Arthur St.). Tickets for Burton Cummings Theatre and Centennial Concert Hall shows are also available at Ticketmaster.
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Iceland's Bjrn Thoroddsen has put together six guitarists for Guitarama, Saturday, May 11, 8 p.m., at the Park Theatre as part of Jazz Winnipeg's Nu Sounds series.
Thoroddsen, who has become a favourite through his visits here, and local guitarists Greg Lowe, Larry Roy, Tim Butler, Chet Breau and Ariel Posen will bend strings in a celebration of all styles of playing.
They will be backed by bassist Gilles Fournier and drummer Eric Platz.
Tickets -- $12 advance / $15 at the door -- are available at jazzwinnipeg.com, 204-989-4656 and at the Jazz Winnipeg office (007-100 Arthur St.) or the Park Theatre.