Acclaimed Pianist/Singer's Oft-Neglected 1992 Sophomore Effort Teems With Poetic Enterprise and Intrepid Originality
Patricia Barber's origins are commonly associated with 1994's Café Blue and the follow-up, 1998's Modern Cool. Both quickly established the singer/pianist as an immediate audiophile favorite whose rare combination of astute instrumental performance, daring originality, poet enterprise, intrepid vocals, and sculpted production announced her as an artist that both takes immense care in her music as well as in her sound. While largely unknown to many, 1992's diverse A Distortion of Love signaled the beginning of Barber's unfettered creativity.
Mastered from the original master tapes, this numbered edition hybrid SACD of the Chicagoan's sophomore album features the similar wowing detail and perspective-altering clarity offered on the reissue label's celebrated versions of Mythologies, The Cole Porter Mix, Café Blue, Modern Cool, Companion, and Nightclub.
Such is the attention brought to Barber's tastefully reverb-assisted singing, the quartet's stripped-down arrangements, the grand piano's resonance, the background finger snaps, and the astounding transparency of every note and breath uttered in the studio. Smoothness, balance, and neutrality abound. Through and through, this is an audiophile delight.
While national acclaim wouldn't come to Barber until the mid-90s, it wasn't because she didn't provide notice of her monumental talent and MacArthur Grant-worthy inventiveness. On A Distortion of Love, her individuality manifests on a surprisingly eerie rendition of the standard "Summertime" and subsequent "Subway Station No. 5," a lengthy piece adorned with atmospheric nervousness, tonal shifts, and contrapuntal movements that ultimately lead into a swinging theme.
Barber, guitarist Wolfgang Muthspiel, bassist Marc Johnson, and percussionist Adam Nussbaum achieve like-minded heights on an improvised and clever read of the Temptations' "My Girl." Here, and again especially on the aptly titled "You Stepped Out of a Dream," Barber's textured vocals seemingly float on a jet-black plain, emanating as if her lips and mouth are just feet away, the slap of the acoustic bass and patter of the drums responding in kind to her expressiveness. Whether you're familiar with this album, a longtime Barber fan, or just coming to her for the first time, this digital edition of this record will please even the sternest critics of vocal jazz.