Patricia Barber on Clique, Her New Record | INTERVIEW

patricia barber's upcoming album Clique

Highly acclaimed jazz pianist, composer and singer Patricia Barber will be launching a new collection of jazz standards entitled Clique, on August 6th. In the meanwhile you can listen to the lead single “This Town” by clicking here.

The tracklist includes classics such as Thelonius Monk’s “Straight, No Chaser” and “Trouble Is a Man” by Alec Wilder, I had the privilege to audition the entire high-res recording and it is well worth it both in terms of musical content and engineering prowess. Special mention should be reserved to Barber’s supporting cast, Patrick Mulcahy on the bass, Jon Deitemyer on the drums, Neal Alger playing acoustic guitar and Jim Gailloreto on tenor saxophone.

Recording guru Jim Anderson along with mastering engineer legend Bob Ludwig created an amazing end result, which was to be expected as the two have more than twenty Grammys under their belts. The digital master was created with the state of the art Pyramix system in DXD, meaning 32bit/352.8KHz samples, and it sounds absolutely sublime. On the production notes one reads “No analog compressor/limiter/eq and/or digital reverb are used in the mix” and you can certaintly tell, the album is clear and natural like few others of recent memory. If you are into amazing vocals, excellent musicians and jazz then Patricia Barber’s new Clique is a must listen. And if this was not enough a – 33 rpm LP and a – 45 rpm double LP will be available soon along with a commercial reel to reel version.

Ps: It’s been decades since I don’t do radio, but I couldn’t skip the chance of asking Patricia Barber a few questions. Here is our small and maybe a tad unorthodox chat.

Patricia Barber
Patricia Barber, photo by Jimmy Katz


Dr. K: This mini interview comes days before the launch of Patricia’s latest album, one that comes packed with well-known jazz standards. Shuffling through my record collection and Qobuz I realize that I lost a few episodes, over the last thirty years she produced fifteen or so albums, most of which come with her own original music. Which raises the question, what music does Patricia Barber listen to?

Patricia Barber: I started learning about classical music late in my life, so there is an element of “wonder” there that I seek. Also as a composer, I’m enthralled with harmony and am interested in writing “new music” that can pull from both harmonic traditions. There is nothing like a great piano trio, a fabulous rhythm section, and I look for those, new and old.

But this is a standards album, what made you record these? Personal favorites?

Patricia Barber: I started with standards, exclusively standards, while at the Gold Star Sardine Bar. I knew a lot of standards from my mother, who was a fabulous singer, and I love them. For any jazz composer, they are an original library that you must learn and study. And I like pop music, so it is fun for me to rearrange a simple pop tune and drive home a hook, a rhythm, a lyric, an instrument — fulfill expectation and defy expectation.

Going back to your compositions, does piano and music come first or maybe lyrics?

Patricia Barber: It is always a matter of reinventing the wheel for me. Sometimes it is a lyric that gives me a sense of what the harmony and tempo should be. Sometimes it is a harmonic structure that I’ve created, and then I painstakingly decide how the lyrics should fall within that, and work on them. Sometimes there is a rhythmic or ideological hook that needs harmony and melody.

There is an obvious emphasis on the quality of the recording, the mastering and mixing process. You don’t happen to be an “audiophile”? Do you have a “proper” audio system at home? It’s a nerdy thing to ask but audiophiles keep your recordings on a pedestal.

Patricia Barber: Well I’m so grateful to Jim Anderson and Ulrike Schwarz Anderson for the sound quality. Jim and I have been working together my entire career. No, I do not have an expensive or “proper” audio system. Most musicians don’t. Perhaps they hear it in their heads. or they’re used to mentally filling in sound on stages where it is impossible to hear well. Often I hear a second line violin section when I’m performing. Sometimes I use octaves on the piano to imitate that, but this is the way that musicians hear. That lush violin section is only in my head. I can understand loving music enough that I’d want the sound to be immersive and fabulous were I not a musician. Let’s say I’m a lawyer, I would want to get home from my job, drop that needle or whatever, and hear great sounding music. Or, go to a concert, of course. Music is life, it is like a blood transfusion.

Tell us more about Clique.

Patricia Barber: The songs on Clique are the songs my trio and quartet have been enjoying, in Chicago at The Green Mill, and in Oslo, Paris, London, Budapest, etc. These songs have been on the stage with the songs from Higher. They complement each other well for a live concert. It has been just so much fun to incorporate these songs into the sets.

Which “town” is your kind of town?

Patricia Barber: Chicago, of course.

This has been one difficult year for most, due to Covid-19 and all the restrictions imposed on our life. How did you manage through the pandemic? Was it a depressing year or a productive one? Do you plan to hit the road when everything settles? A quick search on the net showed no dates for 2021.

Patricia Barber: For many musicians, this was both a needed rest, and a frightening time. Most of my friends who are musicians are booking 2022, not 2021. It makes sense to me to have a COVID passport so that singers, who take in HUGE breaths of air, can relax and know that the entire audience is vaccinated. Also, it will help fill the concert halls if people feel safe. We are all waiting for the infection rate around the globe to come down so that we can deal with some dangerous variants that will inevitably prove a challenge to our vaccines. And, yes I did use the time well. I have been reading and writing prose. The list of books I have read would fill several legal pad sheets of paper, and I’ve been taking prose writing classes at StoryStudio Chicago. I write stories, and will, perhaps, write a book. We all will have learned something from this, we have all changed in some way. I have learned to slow down, and I will try to keep that slower pace.

My favorite Patricia Barber album is the multifaceted Mythologies. What is Patricia Barber’s most at heart personal record so far? The one that better showcases her psyche?

Patricia: You have good taste then. I like Mythologies too. It wasn’t well understood when I first put it out. Now, it is taught in music schools. Universal owns that album and some of my other favorite albums. (Damn!) All of my albums are dear to me. They are the culmination of years and years of study and work. I have quite a few favorite original songs, and interestingly, they are the ones that are working their way into the canon. It is odd and it is a thrill to hear others sing my songs!


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