Become a member and get exclusive access to articles, live sessions and more!
Start Your Free Trial

This is the 1st of your 3 free articles

Become a member for unlimited website access and more.

FREE TRIAL Available!

Learn More

Already a member? Sign in to continue reading

Patricia Barber: Mythologies

JazzTimes may earn a small commission if you buy something using one of the retail links in our articles. JazzTimes does not accept money for any editorial recommendations. Read more about our policy here. Thanks for supporting JazzTimes.

Leave it to Patricia Barber-the most fearless, most intellectually stimulating and, by extension, most interesting singer-songwriter-pianist on the American jazz scene-to deliver an album that demands a concurrent crash course in Greek and Roman mythology or, at minimum, a handy copy of the Cliffs Notes to Ovid’s Metamorphoses.

Donning her composer hat, then handling the producer reigns in the studio with guitarist Neal Alger, bassist Michael Arnopol, drummer Eric Montzka and a brace of special guests, the Chicago-based multitasker has spent three years reimagining 11 of Ovid’s mythological characters. Marrying hauntingly spare beauty to richly layered complexity, these postmodern jazz paintings suggest Modigliani portraits for the ear (and mind and heart), all wrapped in Barber’s stardust voice, which remains a wondrous study in slightly bemused, aloof intrepidity.

On Mythologies we meet, among others, “Hunger” cast as an emotionally ravenous, insatiable carnivore; “Morpheus” as a welcome merchant of eternal sleep; “Pygmalion” as an iceman who refuses to cometh; and “The Moon” (an earlier treatment of which appeared on Verse, Barber’s previous studio outing from 2002) as a willingly malleable lover.

Like every one of the eight Barber discs that has preceded it, Mythologies is hearty, inspired sustenance expressly reserved for those who consider listening a fully active endeavor.