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The Review - MUSIC - Classical & Jazz with TONY KIELY
Published: 6 March 2008

Barb Jungr: a singer styling songs of any genre
Songs in the spirit of Nina Simone

Shaw Theatre

SOME singers might baulk at taking career advice from the spirits of dead music legends, but not Barb Jungr.
The northern vocalist undertook her latest album, Just Like a Woman, described as a “hymn” to Nina Simone, on the promptings of none other than the deceased Ms Simone herself.
“I was at home,” says Jungr, “and I suddenly felt somebody hitting my shoulder and saying ‘What about me?’ and it seemed to me to be Nina Simone. I said ‘Oh I don’t know’ and then my shoulder got hit again and a voice said ‘What about me?’
“Funnily enough, when I told someone who had worked with Nina for a very long time they said ‘Oh yeah, that was her. That’s exactly what she would have done’.”
It’s not the first time Jungr has had dalliances with the other side. A professed Bob Dylan fanatic, she started singing his songs after an ephemeral voice instructed her to. She claims to have sung in the presence of Jacques Brel’s spirit – another musician she reveres – during a performance of his song Les Marquises.
But Ms Jungr is no crank. She makes no claims for the existence of ghosts; only that an innate sense of things is the grist and grain of the artistic temperament.
“They might just be your deepest intuitions. We tune into things as musicians which are not neccesarily obvious and we don’t know what those things are.”
Jungr grew up in Stockport. Her unusual name came from her Czech father, a chemical engineer.
Her mother was a nurse, which meant she spent a lot of time around hospitals; as a child she would perform concerts for the sick.
Though neither of her parents was musical, Barb never doubted her future in music: “They always encouraged musicality. I aways used to think that that was what I would do – even when I was very little I used to make little stages on the front step and do shows.”
Jungr has long since traded her front porch for a grander stage, and this week she brings her polished, cabaret-influenced repertoire to the Shaw Theatre in King’s Cross.
Her one-off performance, featuring in the Feinsteins at the Shaw season alongside the feted Elkie Brooks and Barbara Dickson, focuses on Nina Simone material “cunningly reinterpreted”.
“Reinterpretations” is Jungr’s favoured term; the word “covers” fills her with dread. She sees herself as a singer, styling songs of any genre, in the tradition of Ella Fitzgerald and Billie Holiday.
“I’ll drift anywhere where the songs are good but essentially I want songs where there’s a bit of meat on the bone. There’s got to be a real reason to sing the song, so I can bring life into it in a different way.”

• Barb Jungr performs at the Shaw Theatre on Saturday March 8, 7.30pm

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