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CHRIS BARBER'S JAZZ BAND

THE ESSENTIAL CHRIS BARBER

Kaz Records, 1990 KAZ CD 13 21 tracks, 75 min.

Willie the Weeper, Petite Fleur*, Everybody loves my Baby, Beale Street Blues#, Bourbon Street Parade, Bill Bailey*, Tishomingo Blues, I wish I could Shimmy like my Sister Kate#, New Blues, When you and I were Young Maggie*, Whistling Rufus, Jailhouse Blues#, High Society, Wild Cat Blues*, One Sweet Letter from you, Make me a Pallet#, Sweet Georgia Brown+, Savoy Blues, Thriller Rag, Trouble in Mind#, Panama Rag.

I never liked Traditional Jazz until my father forced me into going to a Chris Barber concert in Battersea Park in 1958, from then on I was hooked. As a result I still have a great fondness for the Chris Barber Jazz Band of the period. There is no recording date or band membership shown on the cover of this CD but from the sound and by recognising tracks from other albums this is 1958-59 vintage stuff. Indeed many of the tracks have already been subject to reissue on the Pye Golden Guinea and Golden Hour labels. Four of the tracks are the Monty Sunshine quartette*, one a solo by Chris Barber+, and five feature Ottlie Patterson on vocal#, and it is these last mentioned tracks that made purchasing the album so irristable to me. The clarity of the recordings is high marred only by an over heavy bass, Chris Barber if I am not mistaken, and a slight hiss on the Monty Sunshine tracks, and the slight echo on Ottilie's voice.

The recordings come from that period of the Band's history when it was still playing mostly New Orleans style music. Often a bit strident on the upbeat numbers, this Band is beautiful and moving on the slower tempo and blues numbers. There are many very good tracks such as "Tishomingo Blues", and my favourite version of "Savoy Blues". To me, though, the best of the instrumental tracks has to be "New Blues" which is played in a very expressive manner that had me reaching for the repeat button on my remote. However I must reserve the outstanding spot for two of the numbers featuring Ottilie Patterson. I am unable to decide which of "Make me a Pallet" or "Trouble in Mind" is the best. The balance of Ottilie's powerful but oft restrained voice underscored by Pat Halcox's trumpet is something I can never hear enough of. Nostalgia ? Yes, Quality ? Yes. Go buy it and listen for yourself.


THE CHRIS BARBER JAZZ BAND with *OTTILIE PATTERSON

THE CHRIS BARBER CONCERTS

Lake LACDD 55/56 14+15 tracks 68+75 min

Bourbon Street Parade; New Blues; Willy The Weeper; *Mean Mistreater; Yama Yama Man; Old Man Mose; Mood Indigo; Bearcat Crawl; *Lowland Blues; Panama; Savoy Blues; *Lonesome Road; Sheik Of Araby; Bill Bailey; You Took Advantage Of Me; Sweet Sue, Just You; *Moonshine; You Rascal, You; Bugle Boy March; *Pretty Baby; Majorca; Indiana; *Georgia Grind; Rockin' In Rhythm; My Old Kentucky Home; Rent Party Blues; *Careless Love; *Strange Things Happen Every Day; Mama Don't Allow.

"Come and see the Chris Barber Jazz Band with me at Battersea Park" my father said in the summer of 1958, and I was filled with dread. After listening to my father's continuous playing of his jazz collection (1 Chris Barber LP and a Terry Lightfoot EP) I hated jazz. Wriggle and squirm as much as we could, my mother and I were unable to get out of the outing to the Park. I have always been grateful for my dad's persistence, as it was that concert that converted me into a jazz lover; I just needed to find that there were more than 16 jazz tunes in the world, and that they could in fact be played for more than 2 1/2 minuets each! This double CD is from that period, and just before, being live recordings of a 1956 and 2 1958 concerts.

The first CD consists mainly of the 1956 concert at the Royal Festival Hall. It gives the band at their peak, with the uncertainties and rough edges at last knocked off. With the exception of a change in banjo and drums, it is the ex-Ken Colyer outfit of 1954 with a couple of years of getting to know and understand each other. The music is pure New Orleans; slicker than Ken Colyer delivered, but still retaining the verve, joy, drive and innocence the music demands. All the tracks from this session are excellent, but I must mention one of my all time Barber favourites; 'New Blues' as to me it epitomises the quality and feel of the Chris Barber band at that time.

The last 5 tracks on this CD and the whole of the second CD comprise of 2 concerts recorded live in 1958, the first at Birmingham, the second at Brighton. These recordings have been released in whole, or part, many times by Pye and its associates. Already the style is changing, becoming more the commercial Trad that was to make the Barber band so well known in Britain, and no doubt also made Chris more financially secure. There is less ensemble playing, a string of solos, solo numbers, and the pace of the up-beat tunes has become increasingly frantic. This is still good jazz, it hasn't deteriorated to the travesty that Chris started to produce from 1963 onwards when he first introduced an electric guitar to the front-line, and then additional saxes. On this CD it is Ottilie Patterson, Europe's Queen of Jazz, who is the main feature. For me it is not only her wonderful interpretations of well know and obscure numbers, but also the memories hearing the numbers again stirs. How can I ever forget the picture of Chris Barber getting his trouser legs rolled up and his spindly shanks exposed when his wife sang the lines 'his legs are so skinny, they look just like a cigarette' in 'Moonshine Man'. Listen to the track and you can hear the audience laugh at that and other ordeals the boys put Chris through during the number. Ah yes, I remember it well. And then the emotive 'Careless Love', when I could have sworn I saw tears running down her cheeks.

This is an excellent double album that is essential to any collection of European jazz. Thanks to Lake for their efforts in re-issuing the material.


OTTLIE PATTERSON WITH CHRIS BARBER'S JAZZ BAND

OTTILIE PATTERSON 1955-58

Lake Records LACD 30 1993 18 Tracks 61 min

Poor Man's Blues, Make Me A Pallet On The Floor, Trouble In Mind, Careless Love, I Wish I Could Shimmey Like My Sister Kate, Ugly Child, I Can't Give You Anything But Love, New St. Louis Blues, Beale St. Blues, 'Taint No Sin, Jailhouse Blues, Shipwreck Blues, Lowland Blues, I Love My Baby, Kay Cee Rider, Just A Closer Walk With Thee, Trombone Cholly, Lawdy Lawdy Blues

This CD is by Ottilie Patterson, what more need I say. From the first time I heard Ottilie sing in the late 50's I have been a devoted admirer of hers, no its untrue: I love her - well her voice anyway. This is one CD I have been waiting years for; no longer will I have to spend hours recording compendium tapes from my collection of decaying Chris Barber LPs. I sincerely believe that Ottilie to be THE British blues queen bar none, and I will fight anyone who disagrees with me, so there. Some of the tracks on this album are available on other recent reissues, but many can only be found amongst the scratched collections of collectors who guard their treasures as a dragon would its hoard of gold. I am not going to single out any individual tracks for mention as I love them all. There is much variety here from vaudeville to gut wrenching blues and things between, all sung in context and with quality backing by the Chris Barber Jazz Band at its pinnacle.

I bought this as my Christmas treat. Now for next year I would like another one, this time of Ottilie's EMI recordings. For the following Christmas how about Lake getting Ottilie back into the recording studio with say the Ken Colyer Trust Band, or the Savannah Jazz Band to lay down some more magic down.


OTTILIE PATTERSON with CHRIS BARBER'S JAZZ BAND

BACK IN THE OLD DAYS

Timeless Historical, CBJCCD 4001, 1999, 18 tracks, 57 min

There'll Be A Hot Time In The Old Town Tonight, Lordy Lord, Little Town In Old County Down, How Long Blues, I'm Crazy 'bout My Baby, T'aint Nobody's Business, Tell Me Why, The Real Old Mountain Dew, Blueberry Hill, Bad Spell Blues, T'aint What You Do - It's The Way That you Do It, Only The Blues, Let Him Go Let Him Tarry, I Can't Give You Anything But Love, Squeeze Me, Mountains Of Mourne, Alright Ok You Win, Basin Street Blues

My beloved Ottilie has hit the airwaves again in what she describes as "…my embryonic beginnings." When you buy this CD you get to hear late 50's and early 60's tracks with a mix of jazz standards, blues numbers and, surprisingly, three Irish numbers with a jazz twist, appropriate I suppose for a school teacher from Ulster. Most of the tracks have the full Barber band with some having Monty Sunshine on clarinet and others Ian Wheeler on reeds. The remaining numbers, blues items, have either Ottilie accompanying herself on piano, or a bare bones backing group.

This is an album that will appeal to a wide audience. It is more polished that Ottillie's Lake CD that covers 50's recordings from the Pye collection, but it retains the intensity and quality that makes Ottillie in the opinion of many, myself included, the best jazz and blues singer Britain has ever produced.

This is another welcome addition to my jazz collection. And please be advised: there are more Ottilie Patterson tracks out there that have not yet appeared on CD. Tremble with anticipation!


CHRIS BARBER'S JAZZ BAND

ELITE SYNCOPATION'S

Lake, 1995 LACD43 14 tracks, 52 min

Swipsey Cakewalk, *Bohemia Rag, Elite Syncopation's, *Cole Smoak, The Peach, St. George's rag, The Favourite, *Reindeer Ragtime Two Step, The Entertainer, Georgia Cakewalk, Thriller Rag, Whistling Rufus, Tuxedo rag, Bugle Call Rag.

* = Chris Barber multi-tracked on trombone.

This CD comprises of re-issues of the 1960 album of the same name together with similar material from the mid fifties. The recordings were made when the Barber band had peaked , and just before its spectacular decline in the early to mid sixties. Most of the tracks are rags, the rest are not strictly of that idiom, but are not out of place. I enjoy a good rag (my wife says that I chew enough of them to have acquired the taste), but I do find an hour or so of nothing else a bit much. An example of this is the fact that when I decided to back-up my Colyer LP collection onto cassette I spread the album 'Ragtime Revisited' around the blank spaces at the end of the tapes. So why did I buy this CD ? Well I have the tracks on vinyl, and do enjoy giving most of them a trot out now and again, besides with a CD I can programme the thing to 'skip' the tracks I don't like. Not that there are that many, but I must admit to a dislike for those tunes where Chris Barber insists on playing with himself in public. Having said that it is not all bad with some excellent performances by the full band, my favourite being 'Thriller Rag'.

According to Lake this is their most successful CD to date, which I think is a bit of a shame as they have so many others that are much more deserving, most of them by current recordings by bands still active in the jazz arena.


CHRIS BARBER'S JAZZ BAND with SISTER ROSETTA THARPE 1957

CHRIS BARBER'S JAZZ BAND

Lake LACD 130 2000 14 tracks 63 min

Fidgety Feet, Georgia Cakewalk, Washington & Lee swing, Chinatown, Yes Lord I'm Crippled, The Old Rugged Cross, Lord-Lord-Lord, Joshua Fit The Battle Of Jericho, Every Time I feel The Spirit, Up Above My Head, Peace In The Valley, Down By The Riverside, Old Time Religion, When The Saints Go Marching In

I first came across Sister Rosetta Tharpe in 1962. I was in the record section of Arding and Hobbs department store in Clapham Junction and I found an LP of hers going cheap. Having listened to a couple of sample tracks, I bought it. Subsequently it only ever got played a couple of times as, although I loved the drive, strength and conviction of the gospel singing, I found her electric guitar playing too overpowering by far and somewhat erratic. It was therefore with a mixture of excitement and trepidation that I approached this CD.

The recordings come from the British leg of Tharpe's 1957 European tour and features with Chris Barber's Jazz Band. The recordings are not professionally made ones and at times the balance is out, however, having said that I have heard worse professional recordings. That is the bad news; the good news is that Rosetta's electric guitar did not have its own amplifier and thus is mostly inaudible.

Chris' Band at that time was one of the world's best and this quality shews through. Of the 14 tracks, Sister Rosetta Tharpe sings on the last 7. Her singing certainly proves that when she uses the lyrics ' Every Time I feel The Spirit', she is not making an idle boast, but merely telling the truth, for indeed her singing is spirit filled and she catches Chris and the Band up with her.

I am convinced that Sister Rosetta Tharpe is now in that great heavenly angel band singing God's praises; I just hope St Peter had the sense to make her leave her electric guitar at the pearly gates!


CHRIS BARBER'S JAZZBAND

CHRIS BARBER AT THE BBC

Upbeat Jazz URCD146, 1996, 17 tracks, 59 min

Just A Little While To Stay Here, Bobby Shaftoe, Jeep's Blues, Georgia Swing, Do What Ory Say, Give Me Your Telephone Number, I Can't Afford To Do It, Isle of Capri, Ol' Man Mose, Stevedore Stomp, Tuxedo Rag, Ory's Creole Trombone, Maple Leaf Rag, St Louis Blues, Black And Tan Fantasy, I Can't Give You Anything But Love, It Looks Like A Big Time Tonight

The early 60's were an interesting time in general and no less so for the Barber Band as it slowly moved away from its New Orleans roots. The band was part of the Trad triumvirate of Ball, Barber & Bilk with Ian Wheeler's reed playing giving them a much 'rounder' sound than the other two bands. Much of the Band's success was tied up with their many commercially successful 45-rpm single records. Unfortunately this fixation with 45s meant a dearth of LPs. My own collection of the Band's material from this period consists of 45s (or their CD replacements) and reel-to-reel recordings of radio programmes, which is where the material for this CD comes from.

I have always regarded the Barber Band of this period as being one of the nicest to listen to; now I have this lovely CD to supplement my collection. The Chris Barber fixation with 45s is reflected here by the length of the tunes with the shortest just over 2.22 min, the longest 4.48 min and most of the rest around 3 min. I have no complaint about the quality of the jazz, just its brevity, as I would have loved to hear the music explored more. The quality of the recordings isn't always too sharp though. On checking my tapes from the period I find a similar 'mushyness', especially of the higher sounds. I had at the time put it down to the FM station drifting off station, which they oft did in those early days, but it appears to have been a studio problem.

The tunes are all Barber standards, though this is often the only published recording of the tunes by the Wheeler line-up. This ensures that the arrangements are different, and the shortness of the tunes means that, to the best of my murky memory, they are different from the normal live versions. Most of the tunes are still New Orleans driven, though the excellent, 'Jeeps Blues' is quite mainstream and "Black and Tan Fantasy' is very Ellington.

I thank God for CDs. If this were a record, it would have worn out by now I have played it so often!


CHRIS BARBER'S JAZZBAND

ECHOES OF HARLEM/SONNY,BROWNIE & CHRIS*

Lake LACD87 1997, 18 tracks, 59 min

Doin' the Crazy walk, Baby, Magnolia's Wedding, Dixie Cinderella, New St. Louis Blues, Here Comes My Blackbird, Can't We Get Together, I Can't Give You Anything But Love, Sweet Savannah Sue, Porgy, Diga Diga Doo, Custard Pie*, Betty & Dupree*, This Little Light of Mine*, Key to the Highway*, If I Could Only Hear My Mother Pray Again*, No Worries On My Mind*, Glory*

When I was a lad, record shops never had sales. The advantage was that, even if you waited years to get the money, you could still buy that old Chris Barber LP you wanted, that no-one else seemed to want. The disadvantage of course was that the records remained very expensive (at 33/-, an LP was exactly half of my clerk's wages after I had paid my mother my board, and I had train fares for work, HP for my motorcycle, petrol money, and money for the noxious tea at the kaff to take out of the three pounds six shillings left). Nowadays, you can get cheap CDs in NZ for $10 or even less if the artist is unpopular, or forgotten. Even quality ones, such as Lake's are only $33. Then the only way you got hold of cheap records was when a collector sold of his surplus. Our local shoe repair owner went mad. Well now we would say that he had a crisis and remained mentally challenged thereafter, but, never-the-less, he went mad, or is that 'as mentally challanged as a meat axe'?. Rather than shoot him, his wife had him committed and sold off his jazz collection. I picked up a few good early Chris Barber's from that domestic disaster. Unfortunately I did not get the much sought after 1956, 'Echoes Of Harlem', but I did get the 1958 'Sonny, Brownie & Chris'. Mind I did wonder at the time just what I had got hold of. I saw the name 'Chris Barber' and the price - cheap, and so bought it.

The tracks are blues men Sonny Terry and Brownie McGhee playing pretty much straight acoustic blues with the Jazzband occasionally putting in a break, sometimes some light backing, with Chris Barber on bass, and on, 'Key to the Highway', not appearing at all. It was my first introduction to real blues, and although it took a while, I got to like it very much. In fact when I emigrated to NZ and found that somehow I had lost the extended EP in the process, I was most upset. I was brooding about it only earlier this year, when I found that Lake had re-issued it, along with 'Echoes Of Harlem'. My joy knew no bounds.

'Echoes Of Harlem' is one of those albums that has fascinated and eluded me for many years. Some of the tunes I have tracked down and taped, others have appeared on either compendium CDs, or have been covered by albums of live recordings. But, till now, I have never been able to track down the complete album. It was worth waiting for. As you would have noticed, the list of tracks shows many numbers that are either little played, or are really, 'unknown', in traditional jazz circles. Although the band at this time were still playing very much in the New Orleans idiom,and thus playing ensemble, this collection has some fine solos on it, such as Monty Sunshine on, 'Dixie Cinderella', and Chris Barber on, 'Porgy'.

Magic tracks? Well from the jazz part: the high stepping 'Can't We Get Together', the easy flowing 'Sweet Savannah Sue', and the strutting, 'Diga Diga Doo'. From the blues part: 'Key To The Highway', which is definitely the definitive version, and I have many versions by both Sonny and Brownie as well as others to choose from.


CHRIS BARBER'S JAZZ BAND

THE GREAT REUNION CONCERT

Timeless 1989 TTD 553 17 tracks, 69 min

Bourbon Street Parade, Saturday Night Function, The Martinique, The Isle of Capri, Hushabye, It's Tight Like That, Fairfield Reunion Blues, Bobby Shaftoe, On a Monday, Bury my Body*, Long Gone Lost John*, Jenny's Ball, Chimes Blues#, Whisltin' Rufus#, Jazz me Blues#, Just a Sittin' an' a Rockin'#, Stevedore Stomp#

Everyone has a tolerance level: now I am quite happy to hear a jazz band with a trumpet rather than a cornet, or a tuba instead of a string bass. I will accept reeds rather than a clarinet, and a bass guitar instead of a string bass, or a guitar rather than a banjo, provided the rest of the band moves well. I do draw the line, however, at the inclusion of an electric guitar in the frontline. This is what Chris Barber did in 1967, and I immediately stopped going to his concerts, and buying any albums he subsequently issued. This CD is from a live concert held at Fairfield to commemorate the band's 21st birthday. The first 10 tracks are played by the original 1954 line up, that is Ken Colyer's Jazzmen with Ken replaced by Pat Halcox. How do they compare, 21 years on ? Surprisingly well, in fact, after listening to 1954/55 recordings of the same tunes, I think they some times even sound a bit better, Monty Sunshine in particular has a much richer, mature sound. It was noticeable that the arrangements, though similar, are not identical, which is as it should be. I particularly enjoyed Bobby Shaftoe, Monty's exquisite Hushabye (by far the best version I have by him), and the new tune Fairfield Reunion Blues. The only real complaint is the fact that the recording mikes appear out of balance with the clarinet in particular often sounding very subdued.Of the other tracks 2* are skiffle numbers featuring Lonnie Donnegan. It was good to hear Lonnie's nasal twang, but his difficulty in hitting the higher register shows age creeping up on him (I wonder what he sounds like now, a further 16 years down the track ?). The other 5 tracks# are by Barber's '75 band featuring saxes, and electric guitars. Fortunately for me the guitars take a back seat, and although the music was somewhat over orchestrated it wasn't that bad. Nowhere near as bad as some 1989 tracks I have of Chris' band ( I know I said that I stopped buying his albums, but these tracks are from a compendium of British Bands in the '80's).

Is the CD worth getting? I don't know. Hushabye is brilliant and makes me want to say "Yes", just for that track alone. But; it's a lot of money for 10 decent tracks that, although different, are just another version of earlier issues, and 7 tracks I can take or leave. I suppose it depends on how much your pocket can tolerate buying fripperies!


CHRIS BARBER'S JAZZ BAND

CHRIS BARBER'S JAZZ BAND LIVE 1954 / 55

Dixie Gold CD 820 878-2 16 tracks, 53

All The Girls Go Crazy About The Way I Walk, I Never Knew Just What a Gal Could Do, St. Louis Blues#, I'd Love It, Merrydown Blues, Skokiaan, Storyville Blues, It's Tight Like That, Bury My Body*, Diggin' My Potatoes*, Salutation March, I Hate a Man Like You#, The World Is Waiting For The Sunrise, Reckless Blues#, Ice Cream, Oh Didn't He Ramble.

I had a girlfriend once from Fulham (she being from north of the Thames, my Grand-mother warned me it wouldn't work out), her name was Yvonne. Her brother-in-law had a well worn EP of Chris Barber at the Festival Hall 1954: I swapped her "Leader of the Pack", for it, I don't think he ever found out ! Whilst my memory of my ex-girlfriend have all but faded*, my memory of Chris' performance at the Festival Hall hasn't and I have long sought a good copy of those tracks and others laid down at the Festival Hall concerts. The previously reviewed Chris Barber CD was a reunion of the original band, this is the REAL Mc Coy !

The album kicks in strongly with the delightful "All The Girls go ..." and keeps up the quality right through. Many of the tracks are memorable, and I class "St. Louis Blues", and "Storyville Blues" as the definitive versions. I have always loved this version of "St. Louis Blues" and have it on many of my "travelling" tapes: Ottilie Patterson's# soulful voice is underpinned by Pat Halcox masterful muted cornet and Chris' restrained trombone, and, yes, I do still wait for Ottilie to cough during Pat's solo break. I confess that "Storyville Blues" just brings tears to my eyes with its emotional playing, 'nough said. There are 3 tracks featuring Bertie King on Alto Sax, and he does fit in well. Now, listen to the exciting "Merrydown Blues" and "It's Tight Like That", or the moving "I Hate a Man Like You", and "Reckless Blues": pure class. Even the 2 skiffle* tracks show Lonnie Donnegan at his peak. I had to wait quite a while for this CD to arrive from Europe: it was well worth the wait!

* 2001 & via the wonders of the Internet we have re-established contact! She remembers the record swap, but on many other topics we have varying opinions. Fortunately my wife can arbitrate on many of them: unfortunately the women are saying that it is my memory that is usually at fault!


CHRIS BARBER'S JAZZ BAND

THE COMPLETE DECCA SESSIONS 1954/55

Lake LACD141/142 2001 29 tracks 99 min

STUDIO SESSIONS:

Bobby Shaftoe, Chimes Blues, The Martinique, New Orleans Blues, Merry Down Rag, Stevedore Stomp, Weeping Willow Blues, Nobody Knows You When You're Down & Out, Rock Island Line*, John Henry*, Nobody's Child*, Wabash Cannonball*

LIVE SESSIONS:

Lord Lord Lord, Merry Down Blues, Skokiaan, I'd Love It, Storyville Blues, It's Tight Like That, Bury My Body*, Diggin My Potatoes*, Ice Cream, Oh Didn't He Ramble, The Girls go Crazy, I Never Knew Just What A Girl Could Do, St. Louis Blues, I Hate A Man Like You, Salutation March, Reckless Blues, The World Is Waiting For The Sunrise.

*skiffle tracks featuring Lonnie Donegan

As you will have noticed, this double album has most of the previous CDs tracks on the 'Live Sessions' CD. I have spent years tracking down old vinyl to get the rest of the jazz tracks. Earlier this year I got the last couple of tracks and then burnt the lot onto CD-ROM. So why have I bought Lake's offering when I already have the tunes? Well if you have ever spent hours seeking out the pops, bangs and whistles on old records you will know that it is almost impossible to get the perfection that the material often deserves. In view of this, I jumped at the chance to get hold of this double album, knowing that Lake's engineer, Paul Adams, would have done the professional job that I can only make a poor attempt at.

From the previous review you will know that I regard these tracks as being something really special. In fact some of them are so wonderful I can get all watery-eyed just thinking about them. Whilst the Barber Band was to become more polished as time went by, I don't think they ever quite re-captured the 'sparkle' that is evident here. I particularly want to mention the band's newcomer, Pat Halcox (replacing Ken Colyer). Brilliant musician that he still is, I feel that he never sounded quite the same after he changed from cornet to trumpet. On this recording he plays a punchy cornet that haunts you long after the music has finished. The recordings are very good, but not perfect: the sound at odd times being a trifle off balance on the live sessions and the vocals having a touch too much reverb for my ear, but…….

These CDs are by one of Britain's finest bands when they were all bright shiny new and sporting a recently discovered singer in the shape of Ottlie Patterson. It has tunes that are varied, with some of them being performed in such a way as for them to be classed as being the 'definitive' version. The band has a front line of three of the world's most acclaimed jazzmen. What more do you want? There is no such thing as perfection, but this comes close!


THE BEST OF BARBER AND BILK

1 PLUS 2 = 3

Lake LACD73 1996 23 tracks 77 min

April Showers; Doin' The Crazy Walk; Hushabye; Everybody Loves My Baby; I Can't Give You Anything But Love; Whistling Rufus; CRE March; Dardanella; Franklin Street Blues; Blaze Away; Easter Parade; Marching Through Georgia; Bugle Call Rag; Blaze Street Blues; Magnolia's Wedding Day; Petite Fleur; Bye & Bye; Louisian-I-Ay; El Abanico; Carry Me Back; Travelling Blues; Delia Gone; Under The Double Eagle.

In 1963, when the Beatles had just started to conquer the Britain, the cost of an LP was one pound thirteen shillings and six pence, and the average wage ten pounds. Pye had, a year or so before, brought out the Golden Guinea series at one pound one shilling. Either way, as a young school boy LPs were for birthdays and Christmas (at six shillings and eight pence even singles were a rarely afforded extravagance). That Easter I had been given a ten shilling record voucher - too much for a single, and too little for an LP. Come the summer holidays and it was still not spent. Then, whilst at a mate's home with a gang of others, I saw my opportunity to spend it. Going through my erstwhile mate's record collection I found 'The Best of Barber & Bilk Vol I & II', and the dust on the covers showed that, like so many of the fashion conscious, he was no longer interested in Trad!

The recordings are from 1957 to 59. The Bilk numbers are already available on Lake's 'The Nixa "Jazz Today" Collection', but many of the Barber numbers are not to be found elsewhere, even on the Kaz CD 'The Essential Chris Barber'. Acker is at his peak, with what many traditional jazz fans regard as his best line-up and playing in an essentially New Orleans style. Chris Barber is starting to move to Trad, but the quality of the jazz, even on the solo items is still excellent. Despite having the 'Nixa' CD with all the Bilk numbers and having the Barber numbers on cassette and, indeed, still retaining the original LPs, I still needed this one. Why? Well, it is nice to play the tunes in the sequence I remember them in, close my eyes and go back to the heady atmosphere of my mate's house in Wandsworth (on one side he had the Young's Ram Brewery with its overpowering smell of malt and hops fermenting into an odorous wort, on another side he had the gas works with its underlying taint of death and creeping destruction, whilst the third side of the triangle held the Salvation Army Citadel, with its perfume of sanctity. Add to that the fact that all us 15 year old school boys were turning our faces green experimenting with pipe smoking, and the atmosphere was indeed 'heady'). Happy days, when all I had to worry about was passing my school exams and scraping up enough money to enlarge my embryo jazz collection. This is magic jazz. You don't have to buy it, like me, for nostalgia, but because it is one of the best traditional jazz sets ever issued.


CHRIS BARBER'S JAZZBAND

HOT GOSPEL

Lake RECORDS LACD 39 1994 17 tracks 59 minutes

Highway To Heaven/ God Leads His Dear Children (Shady Green Pastures)/ Can't Trust Nobody/ Jesus Is The Lover Of My Soul/ We Sure Do Need Him Now/ They've Got To Wait On Me/ Just A Closer Walk With Thee/ They Kicked Him Out Of Heaven/ Lord, Lord, Lord/ Too Late To Worry/ I Never Shall Forget/Over In The Gloryland/ Hold On To My Saviour's Hand/ God Searched The World/ Leaning On The Lord/ Jesus Is A Rock/ Old Time Religion

And that's Jazz! or is it ? Just another shade really, and in view of Traditional Jazz's continual borrowing of gospel numbers, it is appropriate that we revisit the original occasionally. This is an album of hot gospel sung by the real artists (I was going to use the word "kosher", but it didn't seem appropriate in this case), and with good backing from the Chris Barber Jazz Band playing in idiom. This was a transitional stage for the band; Over in the Gloryland being an excellent example of their contemporary style - smooth New Orleans influenced main stream. The other tracks show the orchestrated phrasing that was to typify the style Barber adopted more and more. The first 14 tracks are from 1963; the last 3 tracks are from 1966-67 and show the progression from jazz band to blues band, in particular the featured use of John Slaughter on electric guitar ( and many new Orleans fans claim he was appropriately named). But the CD belongs to the vocalists Alex Bradford and Kemith Washington. Powerful singers moved by the spirit. Washington is the more raucous in delivery but both show what you can miss when you become too selective in what you listen to. Some tunes such as Leaning on the Lord tend to be very repetitive and indeed, the whole album can be almost over powering, particularly if you leave it on "continuous play" as I have been known to do!

Addendum: When my poor old mum knew that she was dying she told me that she wanted to be carried out of the Chapel with a swing, so we played 'Highway to Heaven' from this CD for her.


CHRIS BARBER’S JAZZ BAND

IN BARBER’S CHAIR

Lake LACD 185 2003 20 tracks, 61 min

Ory’s Creole Trombone, Come On Baby, Burgundy Street Blues, New Orleans Hula, Solitariness, Bagatelle, Mood Indigo, I Hate Myself For Being Mean To You, On The Sunny Side Of The Street, Oh Baby, Making Whoopee, Phil’s Late, Original Charleston Strut, Body & Soul, Sweet Lorraine, It’s Only A Paper Moon, New Stack O’lee, Ca C’est L’amour, Till We Meet Again

This CD contains yet more treasures from the Lansdowne Jazz Series produced by Denis Preston. The tracks are from 1960 to 1962 and whilst ‘Solitariness’ and ‘Phil’s Late’ have appeared on compendium CDs put out by Phillips, the other tracks have never been re-released on CD. However, ‘I Hate Myself For Being Mean To You ‘ did appear on a compendium LP and Ijust know that IO have heard this version of ‘Ory’s Creole Trombone’ before.The material mainly comes from 4 EPs that, featured (and on many tracks solo’d) the frontline players, a single put out by Chris and the band and a single put out by Ottilie Patterson (‘I Hate Myself For Being Mean To You’ has a release date of 1989, the original release was in 1961 as the other side of ‘Come On Baby’. I think that it is a variant take, as to me on some bits either Ottilie’s voice, or Pat Halcox’s trumpet go ‘down’ when I expect it to go ‘up’ or visa versa. I will have to re-connect a turntable to my sound system to check it when I get the time and have found the money for a replacement stylus. The tunes are not in time sequence, so you get the later band with Ian Wheeler on clarinet and alto mixed in with earlier tracks that have Monty Sunshine on clarinet. This isn't a problem, but you need to be aware of the fact.

Although by the time these recordings were made I had felt that the band was moving from its New Orleans roots, I still used to follow them and also buy any of their recordings I could find the money for. Some of this stuff I had, other material is completely new to me. It is all beautifully played, though at the time it was already becoming apparent that as Chris was moving in his new direction, the arrangements had started to ‘freeze’ and you felt that any innovation or improvisation happened only at the primary stage and that once he felt the band sounded ‘right’, he stuck with it (rather like the Dutch Swing College Band in that respect). Don’t get me wrong, this is very nice jazz and I am enjoying listening to Chris and his band again in high fidelity (my own recordings, now burnt onto CD, lack the crispness of these that have been taken from the masters) and am really looking forward to the rest of the catalogue coming out. Some of Chris’ 45 singles from 1961-63 are amongst my all time favourites so I am tingling with anticipation at them appearing. I just hope and trust that Paul Adams of Lake Records puts the later material from after John Slaughter and his electric guitar killed my enjoyment of the band on separate CDs to the pre Slaughter line-up

It has taken me a while to do this review, in part due to the fact that I lent it to my father for a second opinion and he refused to give it back! I had to sneak over his house when he was out to retrieve it!


CHRIS BARBER’S JAZZ BAND

BAND BOX No 1

Lake LACD 194 2004, 20 tracks, 67 min

Hiawatha Rag, Sit Tu Vois Ma Mere*, Darling Nellie Gray, Give Me Your Telephone Number, I’m Gonna Wash That Man Right Out Of My Hair, How Long Blues, Hot House Rag, Swanee River, Squeeze Me, Creole Song, There’ll Be A Hot Time, Golden Striker, Don’t Go ‘Way No Body, Well Alright Ok You Win, ‘Taint Nobody’s Business, Soudan, Li’l Liza Jane, Tell It To The Marines, Lonesome*, Swanee River

* same tune, different names

Most of these tracks are from the LP of the same name, released in 1959, and it was my father’s first LP. As he had a limited collection at the time I got to know it very well indeed! Just as well I liked it then. In fact when I decided last year to burn it to CD rather than listen to the worn out cassette tape I had made of it, I found that the LP had been played so many times it was too muzzy to use. I then reverted back to a reel-to-reel mono dub I had made in the late 60s of the LP, but it was still of poor quality. A chap in Canada, who had been reading my reviews, sent me over a CD burnt from his own LP, but it was ‘raw’ and contained many pops bangs and whistles. It has been sitting by my PC for a while waiting for me to have the time to edit it on my sound software, without using preventative maintenance software it was a task I never did get around to completing. Fortunately Lake have come along with this CD with all the tracks in pristine condition and beautifully re-balanced so I won’t have to bother with the job of trying to do it myself. As a bonus there are some additional tracks from an Ottilie Patterson EP (oh how I love that woman’s singing), and some odd bits and pieces. Amongst these odd tracks is ‘Tell It To The Marines’ (previously released on a Phillips compendium together with ‘Lonesome’). This was the theme tune for a second rate British TV comedy programme; fortunately the recording by Chris and the band is better than the programme ever was.

The band at that time was still rocking along well, though tending to be more arranged than in the past and with a greater emphasis on solo work. Having said that; this CD material does not reflect the trend so much as the band’s live appearances at the time did. Certainly there are no two or three tracked solo horrors as there were on some other Barber recordings around that time.

I love this CD and highly recommend it. It is as crisp and bright as a fresh apple and just as toothsome.

One thing I feel I must comment on is the overall sound. The material on this CD, and all those Lake CDs taken from the Lansdowne series, has a very ‘light’ clear sound. In recent years, new technology has given us ‘dynamic bass’. As a result the contemporary sound of music has the bass highly emphasised, with the result of making the fluid in our eyeballs resonate and the fillings in our teeth drop out*. In the early 60s reproduction of high fidelity sound had just reached the point where the very delicate sounds at the high end of the sound spectrum could be reproduced. Sound equipment manufacturers and record companies were so proud of this achievement that contemporary recordings were balanced to demonstrate this phenomenon. I prefer this type of balance as it is truer to the non-amplified sound jazz bands made playing live and, besides, it causes me no physical pain to listen to!