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  • Jonathan Widran

MATT BARBER, The Song Is You

A charismatic, vocally dynamic and mega popular jazz singer and vocal interpreter who averages an incredible 300 live performances a year, Matt Barber makes an emphatic opening statement by choosing the liberating and forward thinking “Oh! Look at Me Now” as the opening tune on his winsome seventh album The Song Is You.

His poignant liner notes make it clear, however, that despite that beyond his silky, heartfelt and emotionally impactful delivery, he’s truly part of something greater, not simply employing but deeply collaborating with some of the genre’s premiere sidemen and instrumental artists. In that regard, beyond stellar, richly inspirational performances of classics ranging from “East of the Sun (and West of the Moon),” “Almost Like Being In Love,” “I Remember You” and “For One in My Life,” perhaps the most notable aspect of collection from a musical standpoint is that it features some of the last recorded performances by veteran Chicago and L.A. based pianist/arranger Bradley Young, who passed away in October 2021, not long after co-producing this project with Barber.


No disrespect to the great pianist Marc LeBrun, who lends his impeccable harmony and intuitive energy to four tracks, but the emotional core of The Song Is You is the six tunes blessed by Young’s sparkling piano gifts, adventurous improvisational excursions and inimitable rhythm arrangements. These range from the brisk, joyous and optimistic title track and (beautifully ironic) a snappy jaunt through “You Make Me Feel So Young” through a soulful, hipped-up spin on Billy Joel’s “Just The Way You Are” and a tender stroll through “Moon River.”


Also of note on the Barber collaborative front are the vibrant contributions of Tony Guerrero, who brings his smoky flugelhorn cool to “East of the Sun…” and “I Remember You.” The singer complements his effortless breeze through standards and the Great American Songbook with a splendid rendition of the thoughtful ballad “Love Like You,” aka the closing theme to the Cartoon Network series Steven Universe (featuring saxman Mark Goldsbury) and the closer “Moments In Time,” a symphonic pop flavored anthem penned by Barber and Day Kelly, who contributes piano and a dynamite smooth jazzy sax solo.

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