About Barbara Jean…
“The Pioneer Valley is exploding with talent and has always been a musically rich area. I am excited by the music scene here and love being a part of it.”
Born in Boston and brought up in Tennessee, Barbara’s career is a convergence of music and culture. Ray Charles, the Holy Modal Rounders and Appalachia mixed with her Dad’s favorites, Ella Fitzgerald, The Ink Spots, Julie London and Paul Robeson (Ol’ Man River). Her mom sang light opera, semi professionally, show tunes and musicals.
In her early years Barbara won an audition with a popular Eastern Tennessee R&B band. She performed with them at two inaugural galas for governors elected in the state of Tennessee. Decca records offered her a contract, but her parents felt she was too young for the life style required. She continued singing in Tennessee until her family moved to the Northeast.
There, her development as a performer reached a turning point when a friend brought her to Boston’s Jazz Workshop. Listening to Herbie Hancock and Betty Carter changed everything, ushering in a much larger musical landscape. While earning a degree in Music and Art Therapy at the University of Massachusetts, she became a founding member of the innovative fusion band Real Tears where she was able to incorporate and practice these new influences.
This legendary Pioneer Valley band (Real Tears) traveled and played extensively on the college circuit in New England opening for Hubert Laws, Dionne Warwick, Mimi Farinia, and the Persuasions, among others. Other members of Real Tears have gone on to achieve successful careers working with the likes of Don Cherry, Kitaro, Gary Bartz, Max Roach, Art Blakey and Alan Dawson.
In addition to Real Tears, Barbara was a member of The Shades(acapella group) the Barbara Ween Ensemble, and Goin’ Down Swingin’.
Heroes and teachers include Karrin Allyson, Sheila Jordan and Giacomo Gates. Each has brought new insights and encouragement. Other influences include Dinah washington, Etta Jones, Dakota Staton, Anita O’Day, Billie Holiday, Nancy Wilson, Diana Reeves, Miles Davis, Wayne Shorter, John Coltrane, Wes Montgomery, Grant Green, Jim Hall, Kenny Burrell and more.
She currently works with her own group in Massachusetts and surrounding areas. In the Berkshire she is often performing at the Gateway Inn with Rob Kelly (keys) and in Northampton at the Jazz Workshop in the Clarion Hotel Loft Lounge. She has appeared at Northampton’s Iron Horse Music Hall and the Academy of Music, and often at the Paradise City Arts Festivals in Northampton and Marlboro and at many other Arts festivals and clubs. She also performs with the Valley Jazz Diva’s (with Carol Abbe Smith and Jill Connolly), Cafe Society and Roger Salloom, playing music for numerous events from Boston to the Pioneer Valley as well as Vermont, Connecticut and NewYork areas.