Blessed with a voice that hangs in the air like blue smoke, this Chicago-based chanteuse sings, speaks, intones, whispers, and purrs lonely lyrics for lost souls. Barber's recent disc, the compelling Live: A Fortnight in France (Blue Note), reminds me to pay extra attention to the agile fills and deft accompaniment of her drummer, Eric Montzka. The Triple Door, 216 Union St, 838-4333, sets at 7:30 and 10 pm, $22.
SATURDAY DECEMBER 11
Desolate atmospheres and distant, plangent melodies shrouded in electronic fog. Yum. Living Room, 4301 Fremont Ave N, www.livingroomseattle.org, 8 pm, $3.
Music from Renaissance and Baroque periods, including works by Santiago de Murcia (ca. 1682-ca. 1740), a Spanish-born composer working in Mexico, and Marin Marais' Les Folies d'Espagne, a piece once reputed to drive women insane. Pre-concert talk at 7:15 pm. Bethany Lutheran Church, 7400 Woodlawn Ave NE, 368-0735, 8 pm, $10-$22.
This remarkable Chicago-based saxophonist/clarinetist fronts an all-star quartet with Paul Rutherford (trombone), Torsten Müller (bass), and Dylan van der Schyff (drums). Keep your ears open for the virtuosic Rutherford, who, with Derek Bailey, Evan Parker, and Tony Oxley, helped pioneer freely improvised music back in the late 1960s. Gallery 1412, 1412 18th Ave at E Union St, 8 pm, $15.
Yes, there are too many interesting gigs clustered this Saturday, but what's a music writer to do? Suggest one that also happens on a Sunday. This a cappella ensemble sails through several settings of "Laudate Dominum" (the title of both Psalm 116 and 150) by Swiss-Brazilian composer Ernst Widmer as well as Estonian composers Mari Vihmand and Urmas Sisask. Three Americans get a crack at it too: William Hawley, Martha Sullivan, and Seattle's own Ben Houge, who's flying in from Shanghai. Also Sun Dec 12 at Holy Rosary Church in West Seattle at 3 pm. St Joseph's Church, 732 18th Ave E, 935-7779, 8 pm, $15-$20.
SUNDAY DECEMBER 12
JACOB FRED JAZZ ODYSSEY
Generally I avoid jam bands for one reason: the solos suck. Simmering with uptempo rock-ish bashing and plenty of crafty funk licks, calling this piano, bass, and drums trio a jam band is like comparing a tiny Casio keyboard to a MiniMoog synth. The Triple Door, 216 Union St, 838-4333, 7:30 pm, $12.
Despite the remarkable popularity of Olivier Messiaen's Quartet for the End of Time, I'm convinced the real route to Messiaen's music is through his organ works. Cathedral Organist Joseph Adam tackles La Nativité, a massive cycle of nine meditations on the birth of Christ composed in 1935. A master of the organ, Messiaen (1908-1992) used unusually bleak tones, murky textures, and cataclysmically clustered notes to convey humanity's loneliness and longing for the divine, veering in a trice from diatonic devotional ditties to time-freezing voluntaries that proclaim the coming apocalypse. St. James Cathedral, 804 Ninth Ave, 382-4874, 7:30 pm, students pay as able/$15.