Chris recently announced his retirement, well earned after 70+ years of playing and band leading. This reissued two-CD album, originally put together in 2010, is a tribute to his long and successful career. Spanning 1958-2010, and focusing on Chris himself, it makes numerous stops along his musical road, sampling a wide range of sometimes surprisingly eclectic collaborations with celebrities of jazz, blues, gospel and blues-rock.
Back in 1954, the hugely popular Barber band established a fresh new sound in British traditional jazz, providing a six-piece piano less template with New Orleans roots for legions of bands who were to spring up everywhere, bulking out the ensuing “trad boom”. But Chris was no stick-in-the-mud. Astute, organising and always willing to learn and adapt, he developed a particular interest in blues and gospel, with Ellington a recurring source of inspiration in Barber’s repertoire and arrangements. Whilst maintaining throughout his career an affinity with New Orleans music, he moved on with the times as the trad boom faded, experimenting with repertoire and adding saxophones and electric guitar (whilst unusually, retaining the banjo, and not recruiting a pianist).
The well-produced liner booklet contains Chris’s comments on each track in conversation with Alyn Shipton in 2010. In a collection of widely varied collaborations, some quite rare, Chris acquits himself with panache on all tracks with all comers, including a couple of positive performances on bass.
In the opening tracks of CD1 with Sonny Terry and Brownie McGhee, Do Love, Do Remember Me, captures the infectiously bouncy drive of the early Barber band in 1958. Not in chronological order, legends of blues, rock and gospel who then line the road through the years include Eric Clapton, Muddy Waters, James Cotton, Rory Gallagher, Lonnie Donegan, Dr. John, Van Morrison and Alex Bradford.
Their contributions are compelling and colourful. On CD 2, Ottilie Patterson peaks in St. Louis Blues, then Ian Wheeler and star guest Ed Hall duet memorably in High Society. Other American legends who contribute further riches include Trummy Young, Joe Darensbourg, Albert Nicholas, Eddie Durham and Sammy Price. Nearer to home, Johnny Boston and James Evans sound impressively mature in Tea Party Blues back in 1993. Jools Holland and Mark Knopfler round things off in style, with Dallas Rag particularly enjoyable.
Chris can be proud of these ground-breaking and no doubt enlightening encounters. A parallel trip through his own band’s development, from Bobby Shaftoe to Battersea Rain Dance and beyond to his big band performances, would make a very worthwhile companion album.
CD1: Memories of My Trip; When Things Go Wrong; Do Lord, Do Remember Me; Weeping Willow; Kansas City; Love Me Or Leave Me; Can’t Be Satisfied; Diggin’ My Potatoes; Going Up The River; How Long Blues: Going Home; Oh Didn’t He Ramble; Lonesome Road; I’ll Be Rested; Precious Lord, Take My Hand; Couldn’t Keep it To Myself; Another Sad One (77.29)
CD2: St. Louis Blues; High Society; Rock Candy; Georgia On My Mind; Rose room; C-Jam Blues; Tea Party Blues; Jack Teagarden Blues; Tailgate Boogie; Winin’ Boy Blues; On The Sunny Side Of The Street; Blues Stay Away From Me; Dallas Rag; Till The Next Time I’m In Town (78.07)
Various groups and locations. 1958-2010. Chris Barber (tb, b, v, arr) on all tracks except Memories Of My Trip and Another Sad One with collective personnel including Sonny Terry, Brownie McGhee, Eric Clapton, Muddy Waters, James Cotton, Alexis Corner, Rory Gallagher, Lonnie Donegan, Van Morrison, Dr. John, Ottilie Patterson, Paul Jones, Alex Bradford, Edmond Hall, Trummy Young, Joe Darensbourg, Albert Nicholas, Eddie Durham, Sammy Price, Jools Holland and Mark Knopfler. Full discographical details are given in the notes.
Last Music LMCD214