It is a tradition in music journalism to quote lyrics, but like those early-'70s high-school English textbooks that schlepped the words of Dylan, Lennon, and Paul Simon into a let's-hook-the-kids chapter usually titled "The Poetry of Rock," what good is it? Fragrant with secrets, Patricia Barber's lyrics are more poetic than most--"If I were blue/like David Hockney's pool/dive into me and glide"--yet without hearing the melody and her wan, wistful voice, it's like listening to someone describe last night's sunset. With her trio, Barber draws on classical, jazz, and the avant, but if there is an allegorical key to the Chicago-based jazz singer's music, it's her voice. Like another master of modern sprechstimme, David Sylvian, Barber sings, speaks, intones, whispers, and purrs, invoking ordinary words to echo those lonely moments we have all felt to be uniquely ours. CHRISTOPHER DeLAURENTI
Patricia Barber performs Fri-Sun Nov 8-10. Sets start at 8 and 10 pm, except for Sun when the sets start at 6:30 pm and 8:30 pm (Jazz Alley, 2033 Sixth Ave, 441-9729) $18.50/$20.50.