Arts &
  Arts Culture Analysis  
Vol. 9, No. 1, 2010

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Robert J. Lewis
  Senior Editor
Mark Goldfarb
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Bernard Dubé
David Solway
Robert Rotondo
Marissa Consiglieri de Chackal
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Emanuel Pordes
Diane Gordon
Serge Gamache
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Lydia Schrufer
Mady Bourdage
Marcel Dubois
Emanuel Pordes
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Tommy Emmanuel
John Stetch
Susie Arioli
Coral Egan
Diana Krall
Stacey Kent
Carol Welsman
Aldo Romano
Denzal Sinclaire
Madeleine Peyroux
Bireli Lagrene
Sonido Isleño
Provost & Lachapelle
Kevin Breit
Sophie Milman
Annie Poulain
Badi Assad
Donato & Bouchard
Ingrid Jensen
John Roney
Russell Malone
David Binney
Kurt Rosenwinkel
Mimi Fox
Voo Doo Scat
Coral Egan
Martin Taylor
Jordon Officer
Melody Gardot
Jean Vanasse
Yves Léveillé
Sylvain Provost
Louciana Souza
Patricia Barber
2009 Montreal Guitarissimo 2008 (Russell Malone, Stanley Jordan, Monte Montgomery, Sylvain Provost etc
2008 Jazz en Rafale Festival (Montreal) - Mar. 27th - April 5th -- Tél. 514-490-9613 ext-101 (featuring David Binney)
Montreal Jazz Festival 2006







Piano Keyboard


by Adrian Mack

Featured artist: JILL BARBER

©Alex Denis of Jill Barber (2009 Montreal International Jazz Festival)

Nova Scotia born Jill Barber played for the first time at the Montreal International Jazz Festival in July of 2009. In response to demand, she’s been invited back to perform once again at the Astral, Feb. 3rd. Adrian Mack, wowed by her performance, talked to the singer about her concert and latest CD, Chances.

Jill Barber’s gift for creating the perfect mood in the right setting even extends to the location. Her East Coast Music Award -- winning 2006 debut album, For All Time, sounds perfect here thanks to its quilted folk, country, and acoustic-jazz influences. But Barber’s follow-up, Chances -- released October 2008 -- is a different thing entirely. The now transplanted Easterner, who relocated to Vancouver in September of last year, allowed herself to indulge in the kinds of sounds that shimmered out of L.A.’s Cocoanut Grove in the early ’50s for her second full-length CD.

With Chances Barber says she wanted to create "new standards," meaning that she was aiming for no less than the Great American Songbook when she started penning the album early last year, invoking the likes of songwriters Hoagy Carmichael, Harold Arlen and Johnny Mercer for inspiration."Because as much as I love a lot of the jazz vocalists that are performing the old standards today, at some point somebody’s going to have to write some new songs," she explains. "So I took it upon myself, ambitiously, to try to write some songs that could stand alongside those old jazz standards and work."

© Alex Denis of Jill Barber(2009 Montreal International Jazz Festival)Well, there’s nothing like challenging yourself. Besides the audacious reach of Barber’s vision, what’s remarkable about Chances is that it’s so obviously within her grasp. From the plucked strings and lush harp glissandos of the title track, to the western-swing-meets-Andrew-Sisters quick-step of "Leaving You," and the spine-tingling orchestrations that lift "Take It Off Your Mind" and "Never Quit Loving You,” it’s as if Barber and producer-arranger Les Cooper had consulted with the ghost of Nelson Riddle. In total, and across ten faultless tracks, the singer-songwriter has delivered a set that might well have made its way to Peggy Lee or Julie London in the last century.

Not to diminish her own unique instrument, of course -- Barber’s tremulous kitty-kat purr is the icing on Chances. But in this case, perhaps the highest compliment Barber has received for an album that’s been universally praised is the mistaken impression that she didn’t write it.

"I can’t tell you how many times people have thought that I released a covers album," she says with a smile. "And I like the idea that people hear the songs and can’t quite place where they’re from. I hear it from members of the audience a lot, that songs I’ve written that they’ve never heard feel familiar somehow. Which leads me to believe that I’ve either ripped off a song unwittingly, or I’ve written a song that instantly feels timeless to them."

With a chuckle, she confirms, "The latter is what I’m striving to do."

Barber found sympathetic company with her collaborators on Chances. Vancouver’s gospel trio the Sojourners first inspired, and then ended up performing on, "Oh My My," which started life as an a cappella spiritual until Barber and producer Cooper gave it a sizzling, swing-time percussion arrangement.

And joining her for a co-write on three tracks is her friend Ron Sexsmith, who put aside his own idiosyncrasies as a writer for Barber’s classicism. "He was the perfect guy to ask," she says, "because of anybody, he gets old music. He has an encyclopedic knowledge of old music and singers and old songs."

There is of course some danger in looking backwards as enthusiastically as Barber and her partners do with Chances, no matter how brilliantly rendered it is. She recognizes what she calls "a fine line between kitsch and class," but pleads for the honesty of the work.

"I do think I’ve arrived at what I do best," she offers. "I tapped into my own voice and my own abilities as a songwriter and really figured out what kind of artist I wanted to be. Whereas with my last record, I was experimenting a bit more. Figuring it out. I mean, I’m still figuring it out, but I’m closer. Getting closer all the time."

Behind all that is what Barber suggests is a drive to secure her own legacy. Which isn’t hard to understand in a world that feels increasingly ephemeral.

"I’m a pretty modern person, but what I love about old music is that it’s stood the test of time," she says, "and I’m fascinated by art that stands the test of time. I can tell you whatever pop music you hear on the radio today we won’t care about tomorrow, and I don’t want my music to fall into that vortex of ‘the current.’ I’ve never been very good at writing a pop song. Cutting edge doesn’t come very naturally to me."

Adrian Mack is a music critic at . For more of his reviews, click HERE.
Photos ©Alex Denis




John Coltrane
Miles Davis
Thelonius Monk
Charlie Mingus
Oscar Peterson
Charlie Parker
Dizzy Gillespie
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