The Artistry of… Patricia Barber

Imagine the creative audacity of uniqueness and wanting to write your own material — all of this in a genre that has a creative element steeped in taking music that exists already and infusing it with the spices of jazz and blues and artistic personality. Downright rebellious.

According to her label’s bio, “Patricia Barber’s unique style and unusual voice made her an easy target for critics in the early days … Her piano playing and singing … her insistence on writing her own material and adapting songs from the pop world made her difficult to categorize.” She was a performer non-conformer, it seems. My favourite part counters the consternation as the bio goes on to describe her as “a tireless performer who refused to conform to more conventional vocal jazz idioms.” Brava!

Music is deep in her roots. Her parents were famous and active in jazz and blues. Destiny? Not at first. She tried to stay away from the jazz world, not unlike so many who try to steer clear of following a parent’s footsteps. Her resistance strategy? Classical music studies. The pull of jazz got a hold of her, though, and we are the lucky ones for it. She is one of the Chicago jazz universe’s grandest daughters. And with a degree in jazz pedagogy, she shares, giving masterclasses to eager and lucky students worldwide. The artistry is in the rebellion and that very rebellion is her art.

The Artistry of… airs Wednesday evenings on Dinner Jazz with John Devenish.