Barb Jungr - Just Like a Woman (hymn to Nina) - The Jazz Rag

After Claire Martin saluting Shirley Horn, we have Barb Jungr saluting Nina Simone. In both cases, the voices and the approach are very different from those of their subjects of homage. In Barb Jungr's case, there is a strong common factor - both she and Nina Simone can be termed great entertainers, performers and interpreters. Likewise, I have to wonder whether the word "jazz" is fully applicable to what we hear. The point of departure, for me, is that Barb appeals to my palate much more than Nina ever did. To each his own.

Although Rochdale-born Barb has been active in cabaret-type areas for some years, I was not awakened to her talent till I heard her 2002 album "Every Grain of Sand" - her highly individual takes on Bob Dylan songs, which I found inspirational. Her subsequent CDs have tended to include Dylan compositions, as does this one, with three that Nina "covered" as they say.

As ever, she has collaborated with some of our finest players for these fiery or tender expositions of Simone-sung stuff. The excellent Jenny Carr directs and is on piano; she also is part of the frequent backing voices, along with Barb and Jessica Lauren, who contributes organ, harmonica and assorted other sounds to the mix. Johnny Lee has a wide range of drum beats including military-style to supply. Add the veteran bassman Danny Thompson and some very effective spots of tenor and soprano from Mark Lockheart, and you have ingredients for a constantly-gripping programme.

It's hard to specify highlights, but the perfect power of the title track and the measured menace of Lilac Wine are certainly among them. I also like the way Don't Let Me Be Misunderstood builds steadily to an extended ending, and the rocking lilt of To Love Somebody. A song I've had adverse reactions to in the past is Bricusse/Newley's Feeling Good, but the sheer infectious exuberance of this version wins me over totally. Certainly Ms Jungr is adept in transforming her chosen themes into things of her own, so that can be said to justify her rating as a jazz singer.

The Jazz Rag
07 May 2008