Barb Jungr: British diva extraordinaire
Summer time in London…
If you haven’t encountered Barb Jungr in the past decade or two, then you’ve been missing out on a singer and someone very special – a chanteuse in the European tradition, who hails from Rochdale in Lancashire but whose spirit roams the world. With a voice like melted chocolate that can raise cain in the higher reaches as well as the lower notes, Barb has been a prolific recording star since she went solo.
We first encountered Barb at the Edinburgh Fringe in the late ’80s when she was part of the music duo, Jungr & Parker. We knew then we were listening to something and someone unique – a jazz singer with a completely fresh, original approach with a rich vibrato that completely overturned old conceptions about how certain songs should be sung.
Since then, Jacques Brel, Nina Simone, Bob Dylan, Leonard Cohen, and many others have all come in under the Jungr umbrella. Her CDs have become legendary. My personal favourite: Chanson: The Space in Between, `new English translations of classic French chansons’. Melancholic, aching with lost loves, Barb’s sensitivities tears the heart out.
We caught her at the end of June, between touring the UK and yet another spell in the Big Apple as part of the City of London Festival. A less than suitable venue for her, the ballroom basement of a posh corporate hotel, we nonetheless dined out fabulously for an hour on songs by Simone (and one or two Dylan and Cohen that Simone had covered) sung with Barb’s inimitable attention to detail – soaring, subtle, post-modern and completely fresh courtesy of piano, Simon Wallace and double bass, David Mantovani.