Dee Burton, Barb Jungr, and myself at 54 Below.
Last night I went with my friend Dee Burton and her friend Bob Goldberg to see the cabaret singer Barb Jungr (winner of numerous Time Out and other awards), accompanied by Tracy Stark on piano and Mike Lunoe on percussion, at 54 Below, a downstairs club in the old Studio 54 building. (Appropriately enough, the Broadway show Cabaret is playing upstairs.) Widely praised for her sensitive and unusual interpretation of material by such songwriters as Bob Dylan, Leonard Cohen, and Joni Mitchell, the British Jungr drew a crowd that included fellow chanteuse Karen Akers and actress Laila Robins (who appeared recently in Homeland).
Jungr’s new CD, Hard Rain—which, hooray!, I just received for Christmas—focuses on material by Dylan and Cohen, but this show, though it had a theme of “no regrets,” was more freewheeling (although I almost forgot that Dylan is himself freewheelin’!) and included Hank Williams’s “Your Cheatin’ Heart,” Bruce Springsteen’s “Dancing in the Dark” (an emotional, almost harrowing version), and Paul McCartney's “The Night Before.” Her comic side came out in the between-song patter and occasionally within the songs themselves, especially “Lay Lady Lay,” somehow conveyed from the woman’s point of view. But I was most struck by Todd Rundgren’s “I Saw the Light” and Barry Gibb’s “Woman in Love” (performed by Barbra Streisand on her CD with Gibb, Guilty.) In both cases, a second before I realized what she was singing, Jungr’s caressing tone and meticulous mining of the words had me wondering: what beautiful song is this?
If you’re not familiar with Jungr, I hope you’ll check out her music, and if you get a chance to see her live (she’s got one more NYC show tonight), by all means grab it!