Hot off her U.S. appearances with pianist/composer and Grammy- and Tony-winning producer John McDaniel in support of their Beatles music collaboration Come Together: The Music of the Beatles, U.K. cabaret-jazz great Barb Jungr is releasing new album Shelter From the Storm—Songs of Hope for Troubled Times, featuring American contemporary jazz pianist Laurence Hobgood, on Feb. 19.
The album includes three Jungr-Hobgood originals along with material by Bob Dylan, Leonard Cohen, Joni Mitchell, Rodgers & Hammerstein, Leonard Bernstein & Stephen Sondheim, Peter Gabriel and David Bowie.
“It’s my collaboration with the wonderful Laurence Hobgood!” enthuses Jungr, back in England following her Come Together shows and showcasing at last month’s Association of Performing Arts Presenters (APAP) conference in New York.
“It was arranged and recorded in New York with New York musicians and has this unique jazz voice flavor, I think. And it’s a development from and on everything I’ve done for a while now–excellent arranging, superb musicianship, and exploratory repertoire.”
Exploratory repertoire, indeed. Jungr has been exploring what she calls “The New American Songbook”—songs by top rock-era songwriters as opposed to Tin Pan Alley–since her first albums and most notably on her 2010 album The Men I Love: The New American Songbook, which consisted of covers of the likes of Bob Dylan (she’s devoted entire albums to Dylan songs), Leonard Cohen, Bruce Springsteen, Neil Diamond, Paul Simon and Jimmy Webb.
Shelter From the Storm, Jungr continues, “developed out of my love of ‘The New American Songbook,’ and also allows me to hand in a couple of ‘Great American Songbook’ songs as well,” namely, Rodgers & Hammerstein’s “Bali Hai,” from South Pacific, and Bernstein & Sondheim’s “Something’s Coming,” from West Side Story.
“I put in a long time of mulling over and developing a clear idea of the narrative of the songs,” notes Jungr. “There is for me a very clear narrative running all the way through that’s played out through these songs’ texts and music and through the arrangements.”
Of her focus on great songwriters from the 1960s and ‘70s, she observes, “There was a time then when the muse hit the minds of some of our great songwriters like a ‘Star Wars’ ray, and they exploded these extraordinary pieces of work onto this planet. I honor that time, those writers and those songs.”
As for today’s songwriters, Jungr says she’s been too busy working to notice any of like stature, but notes that “what has always happened is that songs have found me. And of course I write myself, and there are three Barb-Laurence songs on this album, which are therefore utterly contemporary–so I consider that as being songs of today!”
Junger relates how she and Hobgood “were drawn to one another through the music.”
“We both, I think, felt that we would gain from joining together, in some way–not in a business kind of way but in a creative and musical way,” she says. “These things happen without our brains–they must come from the heart and soul. That’s the only way they can ever work.”
This is Hobgood’s first major collaboration since his Grammy-winning work with Kurt Elling (the 2009 album Dedicated to You: Kurt Elling Sings the Music of Coltrane and Hartman). “I’m not just thrilled to be collaborating with Barb Jungr,” he says in Shelter From the Storm’s press maerials. “I’m energized, inspired and downright giddy at having [been] matched with a ‘musician’s singer’–a superb vocalist whose musical intelligence is its own formidable, evolved force with which to reckon. And the reckoning is a blast!”
Jungr was happy to play with Hobgood at APAP.
“I enjoyed it tremendously,” she says. “It was terrific to have the whole band playing again and to explore the music live more and more deeply. We tour it this spring–in the U.K. in March and April and then the U.S. in May and again on both continents in the autumn.”
And she’s happy to play anywhere.
“Audiences are people. People come to hear music. They are already one with us. I love playing anywhere people want me to come. If you want me, I will come sing, we will come play.”
With the Beatles project and now the new album, Jungr has begun what she sees is “a superb year for me.”
“To work with these musicians of this caliber in the U.S.—legendary John McDaniel and Laurence Hobgood, [percussionist] Wilson Torres, [bassist] Matt Clohesy and [bassist] Michael Olatuja–is amazing!” she says. “And the musicians I work with in the U.K.–[pianist] Simon Wallace, [pianist] Jenny Carr, [bassist] David Mantovani, [bassist] Dudley Phillips–are all wonderful people and superb players, all of them. So I carry on singing wherever I can, and am writing more with Laurence and beginning some new writing partnerships.”
“I feel very happy to be able to make music in these times,” Jungr concludes. “The world is in a strange place, and art is a healing force. Music is healing. We bring healing. Jazz, song–it works. The more we can play, the better our chance of healing this world together.”