PAM BRICKER "U-topia" Backstreet

By Mike Joyce

Friday, September 8, 2000

If jazz vocalist Pam Bricker sounds perfectly at home on her new release, perhaps that's because she is. Named after the U Street club where Bricker performs on Sunday nights, "U-topia" finds the recent Wammie winner collaborating with her trio mates, keyboardist Wayne Wilentz and drummer Jim West, in a cozy, uncluttered setting that serves both the singer and the songs well.

Anyone familiar with Bricker's impressive track record, as both solo artist and a member of the enterprising vocal ensemble Mad Romance, won't be surprised by the cool assurance that often distinguishes her performances here. While the repertoire is nothing if not diverse, embracing composers who made their mark in pop (Cole Porter), jazz (Charles Mingus), soul (Stevie Wonder), rock (Jimi Hendrix) and Brazilian music (Antonio Carlos Jobim), Bricker sounds as comfortable scatting through tricky harmonic schemes as when she's conjuring a sultry mood in English or Portuguese. If she hasn't lived with these songs a long time, she never lets on.

Among the stand out tracks are Bricker's supple rendering of Mingus's "Goodbye Porkpie Hat" (complete with Joni Mitchell's lyric), an unabashedly old-fashioned reprise of "I'm Getting Sentimental Over You" (featuring the singer's dad, Peter Bricker, on trombone), and a precise yet appropriately soaring reprise of Charlie Parker's "Ornithology," which gets an extra lift from Wilentz and West.

Appearing at U-topia every Sunday and CD release party on Monday 9/11.