Siberry Comes Up With Another Delightfully Different Persona

By Ira Band, Special To The Star
The Toronto Star, p. B3
November 26, 1995

If stream-of-consciousness thinking were a marathon event, Jane Siberry would be the hands-down winner, taking the gold medal and out-distancing her closest competition by a mile.

Just when you thought you had a sense of where Siberry was coming from, musically, lyrically, intellectually, she's high-jumped to another seemingly inexplicable plane of existence.

Not surprisingly. After all, this is the singer/songwriter who named her first major label recording No Borders Here and who later wrote a song called "Map of the World." Each of her subsequent five albums has been notable for the way in which she has deliberately redrawn her musical atlas.

Friday night's sell-out performance at the Danforth Music Hall proved Siberry's mapping continues unabated. From her Madonna-like appearance -- tight blue velvet pants, frilly shirt open with her belly button showing, blonde hair coiffed on top and tumbling in wispy tresses along her shoulders -- to her often bizarre song selections, Siberry was as wonderfully eclectic as she was calculatingly eccentric.

Which is to say there was a structured method to the madness as well as to her Madonna-isms.

Siberry took as much delight in being the urbane, high-brow musical sophisticate sa she did in playing the dizzy chick. Periodically, the two roles merged within the same song.

The concert began with her superlative four-man band playing a few familiar chords, at which point Siberry broke in with a sultry take on Henry Mancini's "Moon River," which then flowed into two numbers from West Side Story, "America" and "Maria," the latter tune finally segueing into her own "Maria," the title track from her latest recording.

"Maria, I just met a boy named Maria," she sang, with both passion and irony, pointing to a vase filled with flowers and referring to it as Maria, then sweeping her outstretched arms toward the men in her band and addressing them as Maria.

A selection of songs from the new album followed and filled most of the nearly two-hour show. "Caravan," "See The Child" and "Begat Begat" showcased richly-layered jazz tones and textures from pianist Tim Ray, drummer Dean Sharp, trumpet player David Travers-Smith and upright bassist Booker King, the four instrumentalists fusing precisely and animatedly with Siberry's muted or dramatic vocals.

Serious turns inevitably gave way to such whimsical peculiarities as her account of being "ousted" from a karaoke bar for improvising. Then there was her rendition of "Abraham, Martin & John," where she swung her arms and danced as though she had found an upbeat lilt in the melancholic tune.

Of course, Siberry's affable goofiness couldn't detract from her supreme insight and musical integrity which shone on her free-form jazz treatment of "The Girl From Ipanema," a song that turned into a bit of a feminist strike against "The Guy From Ipanema."

Siberry should have given the guy a break. His name was probably Maria.

[Star Photo; "(Beaty) Who's that girl? Always-surprising Jane Siberry was Madonnaesque for her Danforth Hall concert on Friday."]