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Barb Jungr


Raised in northern England by parents who emigrated from Germany and Czechoslovakia, singer Barb Jungr has based her career on American blues, gospel, and jazz. But for Chanson: The Space in Between, her first CD released in this country, Jungr has assembled a program of material associated with France, including four compositions by Jacques Brel and two by Léo Ferré, all outfitted with new English lyrics. (She also includes unusual arrangements of a brace of American standards—Cole Porter’s “I Love Paris” and the Vernon Duke-Yip Harburg “April in Paris”—along with Elvis Costello’s rollicking “New Amsterdam” and the album’s title song, on which she collaborated with composer James Tomalin.) American cabaret performers tend to regard French chansons as opportunities for screeching histrionics, but Jungr’s approach is much subtler, emphasizing sensitive interpretations and refined musicianship. She’s backed by an intimate instrumental ensemble featuring various combinations of piano, accordion, violin, flute, bass, and percussion. Lyricists Robb Johnson, Des de Moor, and Fran Landesman transform each of the French compositions into poetic one-act plays. (A sample from Johnson’s translation of Brel’s mournful “Les Marquises”: “The rain moves crabwise across the sky/Torrents fall and fall again/And old white horses shake their heads/Gauguin’s hand still in their manes.”) Jungr has yet to make her American stage debut, but, given the haunting intensity of these accomplished performances, it’s only a matter of time. —Joel E. Siegel