Barbara has been producing CDs and concerts since 1993, but her musical education began when she was just 4 years old. Her father, who for reasons she can no longer remember, painted their piano chartreuse. When she sat down and played Happy Birthday by ear on their chartreuse piano, her father was so thrilled that he immediately found a piano teacher for her.
Barbara’s father loved music. He had been a drummer until her sister was born and he gave up his career to be a sheet metal worker to support the family. He would often sit with her and play his big band albums and teach her to play the drums on her chest and legs along with Gene Krupa, his favorite. When she was 17, a young man introduced her to Horace Silver’s “Song for My Father” album. She was completely blown away and sat at the piano playing and re-playing it until she learned everyone’s solo.
When her daughter was born, she put aside thoughts of a career in music and went back to school. She got a graduate degree in psychology and was fortunate enough to open a successful private practice. 19 years of her practice was as the consultant for the Van Nuys Breast Center.
In addition to her psychology practice, jazz music continued to be an important part of her life. One day, kismet brought her back to the music scene. She had been writing a monthly article for a local magazine when the editor hired a trouble-shooter to come up with ways to boost the readership for the magazine. It so happened that he was putting on an event that needed jazz entertainment. When he discovered Barbara’s knowledge of the music and the musicians, he asked her to produce that part of his event. She could not refuse and she started by putting on a competition of young musicians and invited everyone she could find in the jazz business to participate in being judges, including label executives and writers. Although the event never took place, many of these people Barbara met in the process are still her friends today.
One of the people she met was Ellen Cohn, who was the director of MAMA records. They were closest of friends and Ellen encouraged Barbara to start a music business, which meant cutting back on the many hours she spent in her practice. Sadly, Ellen passed away from breast cancer and Barbara decided to do as her friend suggested and start her own music business. That was the beginning of BJB Jazz Ventures. Her first project was producing a memorial concert at Catalina Bar & Grill for her dear friend Ellen. Catalina Bar & Grill is the premiere jazz club in Los Angles, and Catalina Popescu, the club’s owner, was more than happy to provide the space and help out. Catalina and Barbara went on to produce several jazz brunches and tribute concerts, including a special tribute to Carmen McRae.
Barbara ran into producer and manager Bill Traut at the Jazz Times convention in 1996. Bill was managing Kurt Elling at the time, and he wanted to do something special to introduce the Los Angeles audience to Kurt. Barbara suggested booking him at every venue in LA in a one month period. Bill loved the idea and hired her to do it! The tour was more successful than they could have imagined.
That same year, Barbara and Catalina talked about doing something at the club that would benefit the jazz community. They wanted to include young musicians, and so they decided to start The Young Artist Jazz Series. The series provides a venue for local young jazz artists to showcase their talents in front of a live audience. Most younger, successful jazz musicians who are from the L.A. area have likely performed in the series. The series is still going strong to this day.
Barbara continued doing promotional work and met many great musicians, including Kenny Werner, whom she worked with on some LA bookings, including a promotional event for his iconic book, “Effortless Mastery.”
Around that time, she was also offered a part-time position doing A & R for MAMA Records. She cut her practice back to four days a week to do the job. It had been a wonderful experience until the owner of the label had to disband the company.
In 1999, Mark Winkler, a very successful smooth jazz artist, wanted to do a more straight ahead jazz CD and asked Barbara to produce it. She knew a lot of musicians and hired Billy Childs, Bob Hurst, Greg Hutchinson, Jon Mayer, Bob Sheppard, Bobby Shew, and Bob Maize to play. “Easy the Hard Way” was released in 2000 and garnered terrific reviews.
Barbara went on to co-produce “The Stan Kenton Celebration-Back to Balboa” CD, as well as four other CDs with Mark Winkler, including “Mark Winkler Sings Bobby Troup,” “Till I Get It Right”, “West Coast Cool” (with Cheryl Bentyne from the Manhattan Transfer) and most recently in 2015, “Jazz and Other Four Letter Words,” which has received stellar reviews.
Barbara has also produced CDs for Judy Wexler, including “Easy on the Heart,” “Dreams and Shadows,” and “Under a Painted Sky,” all of which got rave reviews and made it into the very top tier of the Jazz Week radio charts. And in 2013 she produced “Happy to Be” for veteran jazz vocalist Julie Kelly. The CD was a favorite with jazz critics coast-to-coast.
Barbara is currently working on 2 vocal projects, which will be released the end of 2016, and she continues to produce the Young Artist Jazz Series.