From her early days leading a jazz trio in small Chicago nightclubs, Patricia Barber has drawn extravagant accolades. The praise came at first from local writers, impressed by her unique arrangements and coolly composed piano improvisations. As she added vocals to her repertoire, the praise poured in from national reviewers intoxicated by her recordings. And when (after years of international touring) she began to focus on her own compositions, kudos arrived from new fans, besotted by her lapidary lyrics and her often indelible imagery. Since Barber doesn’t consider herself a poet – and since she didn’t want to be a jazz pianist in the first place – you’d have to say things turned out pretty well.
Barber wrote (in Poetry Magazine, in 2005): “I am a songwriter, which is not the same thing as a poet. Poetry is a passion, my ever present guide and inspiration. Though I indulge in very little of the lingua franca of the art. . . . I cannot talk about poetry, but I know poetry. Alone, with logic and diligence, I have studied, but for me art can be created neither by logic nor diligence. Like music, poetry is created in the mouth, in the ear, and in the air.”