HomeHifiClassic Disc: Patricia Barber's 'Modern Cool'

Classic Disc: Patricia Barber’s ‘Modern Cool’

Producer: Patricia Barber

Key Tracks: “Touch of Trash,” “Winter,” “Constantinople,” “You & the Night & the Music,” “Company”
Release date: 1998
Label: Premonition Records
Catalog#: PREM-741-2

The Skinny: Modern Cool is an audiophile jazz staple. Brimming with brilliant original compositions along with mischievous covers such as “Light My Fire” and “She’s a Lady,” this recording was an instant classic and remains fresh, challenging, and satisfying twenty-five years later. This is very cool modern jazz.

Sounds like: Rebecca Pidgeon, Holly Cole, King Crimson, Robert Fripp, Andy Summers, Adrian Belew, Diana Krall, Leonard Cohen, Tom Waits

Deeper Thoughts: Chicago pianist, vocalist and composer Patricia Barber is a treasure to jazz fanatics. Modern Cool finds her focusing primarily on compositions that showcase her voice. When she does feature her piano virtuosity, such as on “Silent Partner” and “Let it Rain,” it is understated and smoldering. Her almost-spoken alto lends a decidedly noir air to her brilliant and ravishing world.

This session features an amazing band with Dave Douglas on trumpet and John McLean on guitar bringing a sharp, modern edge, with the rhythm section of drummer Mark Walker and bassist Michael Arnopol providing the bedrock of angular rhythms and oddball time signatures. Honestly, this shit is so sophisticated I can hardly be in the same room when it’s playing. When Ms. Barber intones, “I’m so hip there’s nothing about jazz / That I don’t know,” it sounds like a statement of fact.

The Sonics: This record’s enduring appeal as an audiophile reference recording on CD is testament to its sound quality and general musical appeal. It’s 16 bit from higher rez sources. Are there better-sounding renderings of this recording available? I’m told there are, but I’m all good with this one.


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