CD REVIEWS: Shelter From The Storm - Songs Of Hope For Troubled Times
Jazz Times review of Shelter From The Storm
"What matters is the exquisite quality of the work... its immense value heightened by three Jungr/Hobgood originals, including an astute nod to Nina Simone."
Ivan Hewett finds the brilliant jazz singer on world-beating form
Barb Jungr is the alchemist among jazz singers. She takes dubious songs, and turns them into gold. And she takes songs we already knew were gold, and makes them interestingly different.
That gift was on electrifying display on Wednesday night, at the launch of her new album Shelter from the Storm. Jungr’s previous nine albums, which include reinventions of Bob Dylan and Leonard Cohen, have lofted her slowly but surely to the top rank of jazz singers. Her latest roams across the great American songbook, with songs by Bacharach and Bernstein and Rodger alongside Joni Mitchell and Bowie and Bob Dylan. With her was Grammy award-winning piano virtuoso and ingenious arranger Laurence Hobgood, bassist Davide Mantovani and percussionist Olli Savill.
Jungr swept on and launched off into a song about an imaginary foggy island, conjuring up its presence in the distance. Being a great walker and inveterate traveller, she likes songs that conjure great vistas, which she makes us see in our minds eye with big sweeping gestures. Then we were off into a song in beguine rhythm which seemed weirdly familiar. It took some time to realise it was Richard Rodgers’s kitschy fantasy Bali Hai, from South Pacific. Jungr delivered it with a saucy, tongue-in-cheek relish, which almost rescued it.
But maybe it wasn’t the best place to start, and Hobgood’s new song Stars Lazy but Shining, one of three on words by Jungr, was not the most inspired (the one we heard later, inspired by the death of Nina Simone, was much stronger). The evening really caught fire with Bob Dylan’s Shelter from the Storm. It’s a difficult song to bring off with its endless procession of verses, each more grandiloquent than the last. Jungr and Hobgood did it partly by an unexpected gear-change to a driving rock rhythm. By the end, it had grown to something tremendous.
No doubt about it, Jungr can summon a fabulous bluesy energy, and that rooted, deep quality can be felt in her luscious pianissimo too. You wouldn’t think those qualities could be applied to the weirdness of David Bowie’s Space Oddity, but Jungr cleverly managed to meet the song half-way, thanks partly to Hobgood and Savill’s ingenious recolourings. To bring the same magic to Burt Bacharach’s What the World Needs Now shows just how intelligent a singer she is. She is truly a marvel, who should not be missed.
Barb Jungr’s album Shelter from the Storm is out now on Linn.
Tour details here
Vocalist Barb Jungr pulls off quite a coup on her ninth album for Linn, securing the services of Kurt Elling's erstwhile pianist and arranger, Laurence Hopgood. Subtitled Songs Of Hope For Troubled Times, Jungr captures the longing at the heart of album opener 'Bali Hai' to moving effect.
Especially noted for her interpretations of Dylan and Cohen, it comes as no surprise that 'Shelter From The Storm' and 'Sisters of Mercy' are both standouts. Full of subtle reharmonisations, metrical shifts, and the contrasting (occasionally layered) timbres of acoustic and electric pianos - and even some atmospheric whistling on 'All Along The Watchtower/In Your Eyes' - Hobgood's arrangements are outstanding, serving to cast the material in an entirely new light. Olatuja and Torres complete the always empathetic quartet.
The album includes a trio of urbane originals penned by Jungr and Hobgood, of which 'Venus Rising' lingers longest in the memory. The swinging version of 'Life On Mars' which closes the door on this fine album possesses a special poignancy. Peter Quinn
Sunday Times - Feb 21, 2016
The thinking person’s cabaret singer edges closer towards jazz, teaming up with the American pianist Laurence Hobgood, best known as chief collaborator with the even more cerebral Kurt Elling. The bassist Michael Olatuja and the percussionist Wilson Torres complete a sleek line-up. Just about the best Dylan interpreter around, Jungr dissects the title song against a McCoy Tyner-ish backdrop. West Side Story’s Something’s Coming is slyly funky, and there’s a skittish waltz on Bowie’s Life on Mars. Stars Lazy but Shining is the pick of the originals. Clive Davis
Barb Jungr’s superb new album, which features, amongst others, the great American jazz pianist Laurence Hobgood, is subtitled Songs of Hope for Troubled Times. The times be troubled indeed but many of the songs, rather than straightforwardly offering hope, are distinctly – and satisfyingly – ambiguous. Rodgers and HammerStein’s Bali Hai, for example, one of two songs from the Great American SongBook, holds out the promise of a paradise–on–earth but surely has a melancholic subtext; Bob Dylan’s Shelter From The Storm initially seems to testify to the redemptive power of love but the lyrics finally convey regret at the failure of the relationship alluded to; and on Joni Mitchell’s Woodstock the music joltingly undermines the lyric’s optimism.
And, never mind ambiguity, some of the songs are downright pessimistic. Dylan’s All Along the Watchtower is surely full of dread while, although the meaning of David Bowie's peculiar, dizzyingly allusive Life On Mars is obscure, it's hard to detect anything positive in the lyrics.
So, Jungr may not provide much of the promised hope but, characteristically, she sings with enormous intellectual and emotional clarity on a marvellously eclectic repertoire which also includes three literate originals. Trevor Hodgett
All About Jazz
Barb Jungr's art makes a grand argument for her being the most innovative singer in jazz since Cassandra Wilson. She has single-handedly emerged as the principle momentum behind expanding the "Standards Songbook" forward in time to include the Beatles, Leonard Cohen, Bob Dylan, and David Bowie. Her previous recording, Hard Rain (Linn, 2014) was a revelation in the music of Dylan and Cohen, released after her very well received Every Grain of Dand (Linn, 2002). She has shown herself a smart collector of her repertoire and instrumental in the unique arrangements she employs. On Barb Jungr: Shelter from the Storm—Songs of Hope for Troubled Times, Jungr taps the resources of pianist (and Kurt Elling accompanist) Laurence Hobgood, in a simple jazz piano trio format to address another batch of Dylan and Cohen songs with David Bowie, Rodgers and Hammerstein, Bernstein and Sondheim, and Joni Mitchell thrown in. Hobgood does the arranging duties, imbuing the music with a certain dramatic pathos that drives like some divine momentum as a remnant through the collection. The title piece is presented as a complex tone poem that evolves from a simple presentation to a complex and demanding ending. The mashup of "All Along the Watchtower" with Peter Gabriel's "In Your Eyes" is inspired and intelligent. A fine effort by all. C. Michael Bailey - All About Jazz
Kind of Jazz
“But my favourite was All Along The Watchtower, which she sings to the melody of Peter Gabriel’s In Your Eyes. It sounds like it shouldn’t work, but it does, and yet again, she succeeds in making the song her own.
Stars Lazy But Shining is a straight-ahead jazz tune, and could easily pass for a classic from the American songbook,
Hymn To Nina, as the name suggests, is a heartfelt tribute to Nina Simone, and is the pick of the bunch – all the more effective because Jungr does not try to mimic Simone’s unique style, but sings about what Nina meant to her.” Matthew Ruddick
The Crack - Feb 2016
Barb Jungr has firmly established herself as one of the UK’s foremost jazz vocalists and on her new studio album she’s teamed up with one of the US’s finest progressive and contemporary jazz pianists, Laurence Hobgood. The pair have crafted three new songs (which are well worth the admission alone), but the bulk of the album is taken up by the likes of Dylan (including a fabulous Shelter from the Storm), Cohen, Springsteen, Rodgers and Hammerstein and Bowie. Wonderful. (GM)
Each track is given its own highly distinctive identity, yet the album feels entirely cohesive, with Hobgood’s fresh, supple and sometimes boldly idiosyncratic arrangements often stretching the songs into delectable jazz jams. The vibe is spare yet textured; all the material, however familiar, feels new-minted; and there are fresh elements to notice with every play of the disc.
The live arena is, of course, Jungr’s natural habit, the place where, in an intimate cabaret setting, all aspects of her artistry combine through masterful vocal delivery, distinctive gestures and expressions, story-telling, and audience interaction. However, while Jungr’s power as a performer may be strongly linked to the experience of seeing her live and “in motion”, Shelter From the Storm succeeds in doing justice to her multifaceted musicianship through vocals alone.
Through her passionate, sensitive and intelligent reinterpretations, Jungr continues to ensure that the work of many artists “lives on” in vibrant and re-energised ways. Building connections across material, making old songs new again, “bringing soul and song to everything,” Shelter From the Storm stands as further testament to Jungr's ever-evolving powers as a performer. Be sure to catch her and Hobgood tour the album in the UK in March and April and in the US in May. Alex Ramon
BARB JUNGR/Shelter From the Storm: As always, Jungr doesn’t give you what you expect. Varying from her format of single songwriter tribute sets, this time out she’s giving her all to ‘songs of hope for troubled times’ serving up a set card that doesn’t have a single bridge over troubled water in the lot. Although there are other players on board, this is mostly a face off between her and Laurence Hobgood where he gets to turn up the drama in ways he never could backing up Kurt Elling. Jungr will always be an art chick to the core and that’s what gives her the umph to align Rodgers & Hammerstein with Joni Mitchell with David Bowie. Another winning set for the cabaret crew on Mars.
Record Collector Magazine - “Haunting and eclectic collection.”
The Examiner Feb 2nd 2016 - Preview/interview
Jazz Views - CD review