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John Hallam and Jeff Barnhart

Mr Fine And Dandy

LAKE LACD 248 [72:12]




Doin’ The Crazy Walk
Old Fashioned Love
You Stepped Out Of A Dream
Black Beauty
In The Middle Of A Kiss
Coffee Grinder
Angel Eyes
Dream Man
Petite Fleur
What Can I Say After I Say I’m Sorry
One Morning In May
Deep In A Dream
Russian Lullaby
Soft Winds
Fine & Dandy
John Hallam (clarinet, tenor and baritone saxophones); Jeff Barnhart (piano, vocals); Keith Stephen (guitar, banjo); Bruce Rollo (bass)
Rec. at the Rosehill Theatre, Whitehaven, April 2007


This is the second such meeting between British reedsman John Hallam and American pianist Jeff Barnhart. The songs are cut from classic cloth with Ellington, Bechet, Razaf, van Heusen, and Carmichael amongst them. There’s a fine supporting duo of guitarist Keith Stephen and bass player Bruce Rollo. Not only that but the recording quality, at the Rosehill Theatre, is unobtrusively fine.

The playing has splendid springy warmth to it and is sufficiently varied – Hallam plays clarinet, tenor and baritone saxophones – never to allow the ear to become waterlogged by repetitive arrangements or limited tonal resources. There’s a fine outing and solos all round on Doin’ The Crazy Walk which includes Barnhart’s well known Fats Waller vocal emulations – really quite good.

Keith Stephen plays well behind the vocal on Old Fashioned Love. Here there’s more than a touch of Pee Wee Russell about Hallam’s clarinet playing and with Barnhart’s Waller pianistics the spirit of Billy Banks Rhythm Makers is, fortunately, not too far away. There’s plenty of stride piano and rich toned baritone on Coffee Grinder and a good change of pace and idiom with You Stepped Out Of A Dream.

Bechet’s Petite Fleur is taken on the baritone as a kind of tango. Here’s an example of fresh thinking when it comes to arrangements and it’s something that a small group such as this can do extremely well. They seem to have lent an ear to Soprano Summit in this respect and the results are laudable; there’s certainly a touch of Dick Hyman in Barnhart’s playing it seems to me, and the Davern-Wilbur influence on Hallam. One feels this again in One Morning In May where Keith Stephen might be said to don the mantle and plectrum of Marty Grosz and his companions similarly essay the older group’s inventive approach to repertoire, arrangements and tonal sonority. But you can’t keep a barrelhouse player down and Barnhart stomps and drives through Russian Lullaby with impressive ferocity.

The only number that sounded out of place – excellent though it is in its own terms – is Angel Eyes. The rich piano chording and lyric tenor add another stylistic layer but the performance sounds a little divorced from the surrounding material.

Otherwise this is another enjoyable meeting of stylistically sympathetic colleagues. The album is intelligently varied, and swings with subtle ebullience.

Jonathan Woolf


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