Patricia Barber – Mythologies
(Blue Note – 2006)
by Matthew Robinson
As soon as the “play” button is pushed, you can tell that this album is something special. After all, what other jazz artist has ever won a Guggenheim Fellowship and used it to put elements of Ovid’s Metamorphosis to music?
From the haunting shades of “The Moon” and the romantic reflections of “Narcissus” to the meandering animalistic rap of “Phaethon,” Mythologies offers a diverse array of musical explanations of the unexplained. “Hunger” is a succulent and seductively skronky social commentary and “Whiteworld/Oedipus” (perhaps the high point of the album) is a multi-hued groove through colonialistic patricide. In “Icarus,” Barber combines ancient heroes with contemporary ones by paying tribute to modern-day iconoclastic flyer Nina Simone through this tale of waxed wings and prideful strivings. Though some of Barber’s band members appear to be caught in rehearsal mode at times, the unpredictable riffs keep ears riveted and minds firing, working to figure out the links between Barber’s studied words and her smoothly angular arrangements. ©2006 M. S. Robinson, ARR