Will Barnes Quartet: The Source Of The Severn

British guitarist leads piano, bass and drums on original material in the hard-bop mould, often reminding of Wes Montgomery


The Barnes Quartet works mainly in the hard-bop format, playing originals in the idiom. The leader kicks off on The Mad March Hare with a smooth, single-note solo that often reminds me of Wes Montgomery. He most likely uses his thumb rather than a pick to get that soft focus, melodic sound.

Lle Mae Trefaldwyn is a straightahead swinger with a modal touch. Both Barnes and pianist Jack Gonsales have good solos here and bassist Phillips brings up the rear before the leader takes it out. Barnes has an appealing, robust guitar sound which he uses to good effect on all selections.

The Dragon’s Tail is a particularly tasty track, as is the title track, Source Of The Severn. This composition is presented again on the last side of this double LP as a 45rpm “audiophile bonus”. It certainly adds sparkle to the piano and guitar and a certain crispness to the drums. The album insert presents nine post-impressionist paintings by Erin Hughes, one for each track. The audio is good and clear.

The music is fairly basic but it’s good enough to provide a platform for the soloists to leap out from. Gonsales and Phillips are both useful soloists and get plenty of space to operate in. The swinging guitar lines, though, are the best part of this album. Melodic, singing guitar seems to have gone out of fashion somewhat over the past few years but Will Barnes appears to be bringing it back.

The Mad March Hare; Lle Mae Trefaldwyn; The Dragon’s Tail; Up On The Hill; Marchia Wallia; Katherine’s Bass; An Echo Of Spring; Passing Time; Source Of The Severn; Source Of The Severn (45 rpm version) (52.19)
Barnes (elg); Jack Gonsales (p); Clovis Phillips (b); James Batten (d). Add-A-Band Studio, January 2023.