Iowa Alumni Magazine | December 2004 | Reviews

A Fortnight in France by Patricia Barber

By Michael Tracy

Live albums often leave a lot to be desired. Many artists tend to over-spice their songs, resulting in poor-sounding performances. Acclaimed jazz pianist and singer Patricia Barber’s latest release, Live: A Fortnight in France, avoids such pitfalls.

A Fortnight in France by Patricia Barber Listen to "Gotcha" by
Patricia Barber.

Barber and her quartet roll through five original pieces and five cover songs that sound as crisp as studio tracks. Whether on the improvisational “Pieces” or covers such as the classic “Blue Prelude,” the Chicago native and company play with precision and expertise that give each song a tight and harmonized sound.

Barber’s presence as a witty songwriter and lyrical singer come to the forefront on this live album. But what may be more impressive is her prowess on the ivory keys. She struts her stuff with show-stopping performances.

She’s not afraid of taking chances, either, bravely transforming the classic Beatles’ song “Norwegian Wood” from a two-minute ballad originally played on acoustic guitars into a sleek seven-minute jazz number full of tempo changes, piano and electric guitar solos, and driving percussion. It’s a measure of her skill and artistry that Barber successfully turns this “Fab Four” hit into her own.