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Patricia Barber : The Cole Porter Mix

Patricia Barber and Cole Porter may not seem like kindred spirits, but their musical psyches are in considerable sync. Midwesterners born nearly a century apart, both grew up to be frighteningly erudite, witty and intelligent (often to the point of icy aloofness) and yet, oxymoronically, almost blindly romantic. So, it seems odd that, over the course of two decades, the singer-songwriter-pianist has only once invaded the Porter songbook, including “Easy to Love” on her 1989 debut, Split.

Now, at last, she takes a headlong dive into the Porter pool and the results make the familiar utterly fresh. Leave it to Barber to interpret “I Get a Kick Out of You” as a sleepy, post-coital nod to a supremely satisfying lover, then take “In the Still of the Night” at a lively trot and revisit “Easy to Love” as a twilit bossa nova that escalates from sensuous warmth to fiery abandon. The new lyrics she adds to “You’re the Top,” including references to Alice Waters, Princess Diana and the Clintons, are the most imaginative since Anita O’Day’s reinvention of it as “You’re the Bop” some five decades ago.

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