Britain's foremost chansonnier and song stylist, Barb Jungr, is one of the country's finest interpreters of contemporary song. Always original and inventive, Jungr has drawn comparisons with Nina Simone and Peggy Lee.
“No Frontiers” was the title of an extraordinary collection of songs Barb Jungr performed for the 65th Anniversary of Souvenir Press at The Royal College of Music Theatre; it would be equally applicable to the superb singer herself. Barb Jungr defies categories. As Glam Adelaide recently quipped about her, “It’s as if Edith Piaf and Nick Cave had a lovechild who was adopted by Carmen McCrae.”
Musician, writer, composer, and lyricist Barb Jungr has been critically lauded for her insightful and passionate interpretive style, described as “revelatory” by the New York Times. Her deconstruction/reconstruction of popular songs and unusual and beautiful musical arrangements are characteristics that allow the listener new insights into familiar music. In recent years, Jungr has brought her singular talents to the songbooks of Bob Dylan, Leonard Cohen, Nina Simone, Jacques Brel, and more, creating the genre of the New American Songbook. In her 45-year recording career, alongside many collaborations, she has released 18 solo albums, many for Linn Records, receiving outstanding reviews worldwide and winning many awards. Jungr’s collaboration with John McDaniel has now produced two recordings. In 2011, Jungr received the New York Nightlife Award for Outstanding Cabaret Vocalist, the Backstage Bistro Award for Best International Artist, and Time Out New York's #1 Top Live Cabaret Act for 2011. Her powerful singing style reaches across musical boundaries and defies easy categorization.
Starting out a singer and performer on the alternative cabaret circuit, Barb earned numerous plaudits, including a then-legendary Perrier Award. Never one to sit still, physically or artistically, she has evolved through the years into one of the UK’s finest and most distinctive singers. Her exhilarating vocal style fuses her sense of jazz, blues, and soul with elements of everything from musical theatre to African and Iranian folk singing.
Born in Rochdale to Czech and German parents, Barb played the violin and mandolin at an early age. She sang in folk clubs at school and in jazz and blues bands at college and then in London. Her recording career began at CBS in the late 1970s. She subsequently toured with Kid Creole (in The Three Courgettes); teamed with Michael Parker, she supported Alexie Sayle and Julian Clary, among others. Over four decades, she has never ceased performing live, locally and internationally, as well as appearing regularly on radio and television.
In 2017 and 2018 Barb appeared all over the UK and in Europe promoting the re-release of her Bob Dylan “cult classic,” Every Grain of Sand. She appeared in major cities in the USA premiering three new collections with John McDaniel: Sting’s repertoire in Float Like a Butterfly - the Songs of Sting, which is now released as a CD on Kristalyn records; Peaceful Easy Feeling, a collection of 1970s material; and Let The Sun Shine In, a celebration of the songs of 1968. Her new collection, Bob, Brel, and Me, premiers in May 2019 at Purcell Rooms, South Bank Centre, and at the Brighton Festival, with an album release on Kristalyn/Absolute to follow.
Adding to her growing body of work as a lyricist and composer Jungr co-adapted and wrote songs and music for Michael Rosen’s Chocolate Cake with director Peter Glanville for Polka Children's Theatre in April 2018. She co-wrote (with Mike Lindup of Level 42) the book and the songs of Liver Birds Flying Home, which ran for five weeks at Liverpool’s Royal Court Theatre in spring 2018. How To Hide a Lion, on which she collaborated again with Peter Glanville and wrote the songs and music, toured the UK in autumn 2018. For The Little Angel Theatre she co-adapted The Singing Mermaid with director Samantha Lane and wrote the songs and music; the show began a Christmas season at Sheffield Crucible Theatre and subsequently toured the UK.
In 2016, Barb undertook a sellout Australian tour, playing Sydney, Melbourne, Canberra, Byron Bay, and the Adelaide and Brisbane Cabaret Festivals. She visited the US several times, appearing as a featured artist in the Lincoln Center’s American Songbook series in NYC, as part of James Gavin’s celebration of Peggy Lee. She also performed at the McCallum Theater in Palm Springs, California as part of Michael Childer’s annual One Night Only gala, this one focusing on the work of Stephen Sondheim with musical director John McDaniel.
With a devoted following in the UK, Barb has also built a major fan base in the USA and earned many awards there for her CDs and performances (Broadway World award for Hard Rain in 2014, the Time Out New York Cabaret Nightlife Award for Outstanding Vocalist, and Backstage Award for Best International Artist, to name just a few). The Village Voice opined: “One of the best interpreters of Jacques Brel and Bob Dylan anywhere on this angst-ridden planet today.” Time Out New York called Barb “One of the best nightclub singers in the world.” The New York Times said Jungr “is a fearless iconoclast who dives into the deepest waters of popular song to wrest exotic treasure from the ocean floor.” The Wall Street Journal considered her Bob Dylan album Every Grain of Sand, now regarded as a cult classic album, “the most significant vocal album of the 21st century thus far”.
Barb has worked with many of the finest musicians and composers of the UK. With Mark-Anthony Turnage, she wrote About Water, which she sang at the reopening of the Southbank with the London Sinfonietta. Recently she was the featured artist in a major collaboration with the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra and Corby musicians and singers in the Deep Roots Tall Trees project, for which she was artistic director for seven years.
Barb’s extensive radio and TV appearances in the UK include BBC Radio 4 Start The Week, A Good Read, Saturday Live, Front Row. She is a frequent contributor to Radio 4’s flagship arts programme, Saturday Review. On BBC4 TV she has appeared as an expert on Piaf and Nina Simone and on the singing voice. She was featured in the special Bob Dylan concert filmed at The Barbican Concert Hall for both BBC4 TV and BBC 2. In the USA she is currently featured in an hour-long performance for the nationally shown TV series, The Kate, an arts series on US national PBS, presenting ‘bold performers with something to say’.