Jazz singers who nearly got away – part #2

To continue my ramblings about past and present Jazz Singers that need more recognition my next featured artist was described as "The High Priestess of Hi-Fi" by the US Hi-fi Industry after the release of her CD Cafe Blue, have you guessed who she is? Patricia Barber is a very talented Pianist who has a very distinctive uncluttered and special voice.

The reason I mentioned her being a Pianist first is that I believe that she would be happier just being an instrumentalist and not having to sing, this is according to to reliable sources. This would have been a criminal waste of talent because although she is a world class Pianist it is her singing that sets her apart from the general run of the mill singers currently dominating the Jazz Scene.

Patricia made two early CD's "Split" and "A Distortion of Love" both worth owning but it was not until Cafe Blue that the true mastery of her talent shone through. For some reason this CD was branded as middle of the road music and very uninspiring by a music journalist in the US.
Because of this cruel deception Cafe Blue slid in to obscurity and sales were virtually zero until a journalist writing for a Hi-Fi Magazine in the US heard it. His review not only highlighted the exceptionally high calibre of the musical content and performance but the 5 star recording quality which even by todays standards is sublime. The Hi-Fi Industry fell in love with her and she was then booked to play live at Hi-Fi Shows across the US.

If this was not exciting enough for the true music lovers who own High End Hi-Fi then another miracle happened when Winston Ma of FIM Records Remastered Cafe Blue to improve the unimprovable. The
result was a sensation and the 24Carat Gold Plated CD became the new standard in Hi-Fi recordings. Even when Mobile Fidelity had a go at Cafe Blue and two later CD's Modern Cool and Nightclub turning them in to SACD they could not better the FIM version of Cafe Blue. I think we all know the reputation Mobile Fidelity has for Remastering CD's worthy of making the effort. Their attempts with all three CD's was a great improvement especially as in my opinion SACD should have been the real future of the CD format. The FIM Remaster is still the best version to get, if you can find one grab it. I believe Mobile Fidelity has turned some of her latest CD's into SACD too, it is worth looking.

Patricia Barber managed to achieve "The Best Kept Secret Award" when she did a gig at The Jazz Cafe in London some years back, I tried to find the ticket to state the year but it eluded me. This gig was so secret that it was not publicised or even mentioned on posters outside the venue. If it had not been for a friend of mine Oliver Weindling who owns The Babel Label and is Director of Music at The Vortex Jazz Club putting me to the wise I would never had known. I went along with my lovely daughter Helen in fact she paid for the tickets.

The evening was truly magical, Patricia did not speak or introduce what she was about to play she just played. The only interuption was when she just got up and walked off stage because of some really noisy diners. They were asked to quieten their eating habits but refused, it was only when a group of staunch fans stepped in and suggested what actions they might take the diners did as requested. I think the thought of dining instruments ie Forks etc being stuffed somewhere painful did the trick. She continued the concert and all was magical again. This was an evening which will stay with me forever.

Patricia Barbers next efforts were "Modern Cool and Nightclub", both full of great music and she maintained the high stand of recording on the standard CD and as already mentioned on the Mobile Fidelity SACD's things improved even further. The tracks are all amazing so I am not going to single any out for extra praise. Somewhere in the middle she brought out two Live CD's "Companion and A Fortnight in France" both fabulous and FIM did another masterful Remaster on Companion which was released on the now extinct JVC XRCD/FIM Label. This has a hypnotic version of "The Beat Goes On" yes the Sonny & Cher classic.

After this Patricia turned to a much more Poetry to Music style with two CD's "Verse and mythologies" both are distinctly unmisstakably Patricia Barber but take slightly longer to get in to but worth the effort to do this. Her latest CD is a complete reversal possibly because of pressure from Blue Note to produce something more commercial. The Cole Porter Songbook is still a great CD and although Blue Note got their way to a degree she has not sold out and become yet another Jazz Singer turned Cabaret Act.

I have yet to buy the latest and still waiting to see it as a bargain somewhere but when I do it will join the collection. If you want to sit down in the comfort of your own home and give your beloved Hi-Fi a treat go buy Cafe Blue or any of the mentioned CD's. If you can get the Mobile Fidelity SACD's they are very collectable but can cost a fortune, I saw Nightclub on Amazon for £113.Go Bargain hunting.

Tony Andrews