An interview with Patricia Barber: There is a place between classical voice-leading and jazz harmony that I am able to traverse … Video

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Jazz interview with jazz and blues singer Patricia Barber. An interview by email in writing.

JazzBluesNews.Space: – First let’s start with where you grew up, and what got you interested in music?

Patricia Barber: – I grew up in an unincorporated suburb of Chicago called Lisle.  Now it is a huge western suburb but at the time, it was the last stop of the Burlington train into Chicago.  My father was a musician and I just loved the piano since I could breathe.  He taught me piano early and then my mom and dad hired the town music teacher for me.

JBN.S: – What got you interested in picking up the jazz vocal? 

PB: – There was a notice on the Univ Of Iowa bulletin board for a job for a singer in a band.  I needed a job and that sounded fun so I applied.  It didn’t take me long to do well.  My mother was a great singer.

JBN.S: – What teacher or teachers helped you progress to the level of playing you have today? What made you choose the jazz vocal? 

PB: – I had a fabulous classical piano teacher named Goldie Golub who taught me so much about “MUSIC.”  Now my mentor and teacher is a friend and renowned composer Shulamit Ran.  I never had a vocal teacher as such.

JBN.S: – How did your sound evolve over time? What did you do to find and develop your sound? 

PB: – I listened of course to singers.  The Brazilian singers particularly caught my ear.  I would sing into a recording device constantly and play it back.  I disliked a lot of what I heard and I would try to cut that out and find myself.  Playing a lot of gigs was essentially the same process.  Editing out the influences to find my own voice.

JBN.S: – What practice routine or exercise have you developed to maintain and improve your current musical ability especially pertaining to rhythm?  

PB: – I practice daily.  Most musicians do.  Playing gigs is the highest form of practice.  I use a metronome.  I write songs and music and notation so that keeps me sharp.

JBN.S: – Which harmonies and harmonic patterns do you prefer now?

PB: – There is a place between classical voice-leading and jazz harmony that I am able to traverse.  It is very individual and rich.  This is where I center myself harmonically to compose.

JBN.S: – Many aspiring musicians are always looking for advice when navigating thru the music business. Is there any piece of advice you can offer to aspiring students or even your peers that you believe will help them succeed and stay positive in this business?

PB: – It is the same advice in life, “Do what you love because you love it”  never operate for external reasons.  You will get lost.

JBN.S: – Аnd furthermore, can jazz be a business today or someday? 

PB: – Jazz has always been a difficult place to make a living.  It will continue to be that.

JBN.S: – How can we get young people interested in jazz when most of the standard tunes are half a century old? 

PB: – Music education is important.  And there will or will not be interest in jazz by younger people.  It is not for us to manipulate or worry about one way or the other.

JBN.S: – John Coltrane said that music was his spirit. How do you understand the spirit and the meaning of life? 

PB: – Music is very close to our spirit.  It bypasses the petty and goes directly into a richer, more intuitive place.  I can’t speak to the meaning of life.  Everybody has to find their own.

JBN.S: – What are your expectations of the future? What brings you fear or anxiety?

PB: – The current government of the US is horrible.  Can we come together as a people to … Elect a just government?  I don’t know.  We need to get the money out of politics.  But we woke up to this late.

JBN.S: – What’s the next musical frontier for you? 

PB: – I’d like to continue what I’m doing….writing Artsongs for both jazz singers and classical singers.  It is extremely challenging work.  And jazz needs this rich harmony and poetry that steps outside the norm.  as does classical music.

JBN.S: – Are there any similarities between jazz and world music, including folk music? 

PB: – Many.

JBN.S: – Who do you find yourself listening to these days? 

PB: – French Artsong, which is so close to jazz and cabaret.

JBN.S: – What’s your current setup? 

PB: – A piano, a pencil, paper.  I have copyists who do the computer notation and sometimes transcription to save me time.

Interview by Simon Sargsyan

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