Patricia Barber is a singular jazz singer and pianist, but for the last few years it is her songwriting that has been attracting big attention. In concert, she confides by whispering a song of sweet nothings into the listener’s ear, then surprises with a rock-edged and trashy song about a one-night stand. She comes across more street-smart than book-smart.
And now Barber has gone academic, though the result is perhaps the most accessible music of her career. Barber has recorded an eleven-song cycle. She titled it Mythologies and based it on The Metamorphoses of Ovid—the centuries old classic of Western literature, filled with gods, mortals and apparently, humor.
“Ovid was a Roman poet who was putting a spin on Greek mythology,” says Barber. “I just couldn’t believe what a wonderful writer he was—how funny and smart and brilliant are these characters he created. He doesn’t flesh them out so I can understand why opera composers and librettists throughout history have used Ovid again and again.”
But a jazz song cycle based on characters from Greek mythology? “I was definitely looking at other song cycles for inspiration, but they tend to be more in the classical realm. There were very few that I can recall in what I would call popular music, and jazz song cycles just don’t seem to exist. It occurred to me that I could write a song cycle based on these characters but it was something that I thought would be a luxury and I would need some time off.” Time off does not come too easy to a career-focused jazz performer like Barber who has spent years developing a unique sound and an international following. For close to fifteen years, the Chicago-based singer/pianist has led her own band, toured tirelessly and is now, in every sense of the word, a success. She has recorded a series of utterly original and critically acclaimed albums, in addition to Mythologies including Cafe Blue, Modern Cool, Nightclub, Verse and Live: A Fortnight in France.
Bruce Lundvall graduated from Bucknell University with a B.S. in Commerce and Finance. The day after he got out of the service he called an old college chum, Michael Berniker—later a colleague at Columbia Records, then at EMI—who helped hook him up with his first position at Columbia in the marketing department. He stayed at Columbia Records for 21 years, eventually becoming President of the domestic division of CBS Records, a time in which he built Columbia’s jazz roster into the largest of any major label. He then moved to Elektra in 1982, where he became president of the newly created Elektra/Musician label, as well as Senior Vice President of Elektra/Asylum. The next year, Lundvall became president of the reconstituted Elektra/Asylum/Nonesuch label, signing Howard Jones, Bill Laswell, Steel Pulse and Ruben Blades.
In 1984, he was approached with an offer to create Manhattan, a pop music label based on the East Coast, for EMI, as well as to revive the legendary, long-suspended Blue Note jazz label. He jumped at the opportunity. By 1986, Manhattan had copped numerous Grammy Awards and Blue Note was named Label of the Year by two jazz magazines. After four-decades-plus, Lundvall has amassed awards that reflect his stature.
He’s been Chairman of the Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA); Chairman of the Country Music Association (CMA); Director of the National Association of Recording Artists and Science (NARAS); Director of the T.J.Martell Foundation for Leukemia Research, the industry’s most prestigious charity, and most recently, The Juvenile Diabetes Foundation. In 1996, he received the Lifetime Achievement Award from the Jazz Foundation of America and the Russ Sanjek Award, for major contributions to recording art who are not primarily A&R producers. He’s landed three Grammy nominations and a NARM presidential award.