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Patricia Barber: Nightclub

For a cult singer with a growing audience, an album of standards seems a good way to attract even more listeners. Nightclub, which despite its title is a studio recording, may do that for Patricia Barber. A keen sense of drama supports her interpretation of lyrics. She has a pleasantly round contralto, accompanies herself with skill at the piano and improvises competently. Her selection of songs and sidemen reflects taste and a penchant for the unusual or forgotten.

Eight-string guitarist Charlie Hunter comes in from the edges of experimental jazz to back her on three pieces. On one of the CD’s most satisfying tracks, Hunter’s fills behind Barber on Lil Hardin Armstrong’s “Just for a Thrill” hang in perfect rhythmic balance with the vocal. Hunter also comps and solos to great effect on another unexpected entry, the 1966 pop hit “A Man and a Woman.” Marc Johnson and Adam Nussbaum on some tracks, Michael Arnopol and Adam Cruz on others, provide sensitive and appropriate accompaniment on bass and drums. Johnson’s basslines on “Autumn Leaves” and “Yesterdays” stimulate Barber’s most interesting piano work on Nightclub. The collection creates a sultry late-night atmosphere.

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