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Paulanne Simmons

Barb Is Back

Photo by Steve Ullathorne.

"The Men I Love"
Performed by Barb Jungr
Simon Wallace on Piano
The Metropolitan Room
34 West 22nd Street,
Monday September 28 at 7pm; Wednesday September 30 at 7:30pm; Thursday October 1 at 9:45pm, and Saturday October 3 at 9:45pm.
The music charge is $25 with a two-drink minimum. For reservations call 212/206-0440

British singing sensation Barb Jungr seems to have found a home at the Metropolitan Room. After premiering "The Men I Love," at the Café Carlyle in March she's bringing it to the Metropolitan Room, where she appears frequently, for a one-week exclusive engagement.

"The Men I Love" features a mix of rock, folk, blues, rhythm and blues, and even standards.

"I was exploring the notion that the Great American Songbook has a whole new chapter, indeed a whole new volume," Jungr wrote by e-mail. "The New Standard American Songbook consists of all the songs I grew up with and adore in my very bones and being."

Jungr says she chose songs that "are in my blood." These songs include "Red Red Wine" and "I'm a Believer," by Neil Diamond, "one of America's crown jewel writers"; Paul Simon's "My Little Town"; work by Bob Dylan "because I'm nuts for Bob"; and a Leonard Cohen "because he can make me weep (in a good way!).

Although "The Men I Love" features songs by male songwriters, Jungr has indeed performed songs by women such as Carole King, Joni Mitchell, Dory Previn and, of course, herself. Nevertheless she admits that she is "fascinated by the gendered psyche" for the insight it gives her into the process of singing… the breathing and making of sound… that she might not otherwise have.

And there just might be a personal story behind some of her choices, although Jungr says she generally likes to steer clear of herself. "Maybe that's a British thing!!"

In the past few years, Jungr's reputation in the United States has grown exponentially, attracting the approving nod of no less than the Times' Stephen Holden. Jungr, who loves traveling, will be heading to concert halls, arts centers, jazz festivals and television and radio gigs around the country, where she will display her very impressive ability to reinterpret and intensify familiar songs. "So that's where I am want to head - out there, into the yonder, singing and dancing and storytelling."

Jungr attributes her success to her ability to sing about real emotion in a way that is more than pyrotechnics. "I think music is genuinely healing and the expression of emotion a fundamental part of being human. A song calls me over, and if it's a great song it hits me in the guts and then it drives me crazy and makes me rip it apart with my bare hands and heart and head until I can sing it the way it wants me to." Perhaps that's why after hearing Jungr's rendition of a song, one's impression of its emotional and musical message is changed forever.

Jungr will be accompanied on piano by her London-based music director, Simon Wallace. Jungr, who often works with Charlie Giordano at Metropolitan Room gigs (Giordano is tied up with Bruce Springsteen at the moment), calls Wallace "a great musician and composer and also a fab human being."

She's particularly happy to be working with Wallace in New York because he "worked side-by-side with me on the arrangements and I'm a fiend in the rehearsal room. And Simon knows me backwards and forwards." Even better, Giordano and Wallace met last time Jungr was in New York when she was at the Carlyle and "loved each other because great musicians recognize each other."

One thing's for sure, Jungr knows how to enjoy her career without letting success go to her head.

"It's lovely if there's always a great piano for my lovely musicians and accompanist. It's lovely if there's a big audience. It's lovely if the sun shines. I'm thrilled to return to the Metropolitan Room, where I have chums I've made over the years. I'm happy to be coming over gain."

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