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Reviewers: Tony Augarde [Editor], Don Mather, Sam Webster, Jonathan Woolf, Glyn Pursglove



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CHRIS BARBER, KENNY BALL & ACKER BILK

Boaters, Bowlers & Bowties

Decca 2712033

 

 

    CD1
  1. When the Saints Go Marching In - Barber
  2. Summer Set - Bilk
  3. Hello Dolly - Ball
  4. Stranger on the Shore - Bilk
  5. Ory's Creole Trombone - Barber
  6. Midnight in Moscow - Ball
  7. Wolverine Blues - Bilk
  8. Basin Street Blues - Barber
  9. Sweet Georgia Brown - Bilk
  10. The Green Leaves of Summer - Ball
  11. Creole Jazz - Bilk
  12. Petite Fleur - Barber
  13. March of the Siamese Children - Ball
  14. I Hate Myself for Being Mean to You - Barber
  15. A Taste of Honey - Bilk
  16. Samantha - Ball
  17. Revival - Barber
  18. There'll Be Some Changes Made - Bilk
  19. Whistlin' Rufus - Barber
  20. Nobody Knows You (When You're Down and Out) - Bilk
    CD2
  1. Down by the Riverside - Barber
  2. Gospel Train - Bilk
  3. Bourbon Street Parade - Barber
  4. I Wanna Be Like You - Ball
  5. I Can't Give You Anything but Love - Barber
  6. Aria - Bilk
  7. High Society - Bilk
  8. Just a Little While to Stay Here - Barber
  9. Sukiyaki - Ball
  10. Marching Through Georgia - Bilk
  11. Moose March - Barber
  12. That's My Home - Bilk
  13. King Kong - Barber
  14. In a Persian Market - Bilk
  15. Hawaiian War Chant - Ball
  16. It Looks Like a Big Time Tonight - Barber
  17. Buona Sera - Bilk
  18. Cottage Crawl - Barber
  19. Delia's Gone - Bilk
  20. I Wish I Could Shimmy Like My Sister Kate - Barber

 

The contrast between the bands, as far as the record is concerned, is that Chris Barber stayed very close to the New Orleans roots of the music. Acker secured his pension with Stranger on the Shore and several of the offerings here feature him in that vein with strings. Kenny Ball has an ear for a good tune and will play anything that appeals to him, whether it comes from the Delta or not! It is a shame that Alex Welsh died when he was quite young, because his band with Roy Williams and Johnny Barnes would get my vote as the crème de la crème of this genre.

Ottilie Patterson is featured as vocalist with the Barber band on a number of the tracks; she was a good singer and a very popular member of the band. In the bands of Acker and Kenny, they did the vocals, a traditional task for the leaders of trad jazz bands.
The longevity of all the bands on these two CDs is incredible, but easy to understand. Unlike many other bands of this genre, all had a very professional approach to their performance. All were extremely well rehearsed, to the point where - even on an "off" night (and we all have them) - they maintained a very high level of performance and presentation. Theirs is for the most part happy music played with great enthusiasm and no lack of that essential jazz ingredient, improvisation, even if the format of the piece is pre-rehearsed to a high standard.

Several of the tracks from Acker Bilk feature him with strings à la Stranger of the Shore, one of the UK's greatest hits, but the majority of the tracks feature the Paramount Jazz Band. It is interesting to note that all three bands have got away from the plodding banjo beat that most started with and moved to a more "mainstream" sound and they are all the better for it. I say this even though Barber and Ball continue to use the banjo, but it doesn't dominate as it did in earlier times. The Americans discovered this in the late 30s, but it took some time for the UK bands to follow suit. One of the main benefits is that it makes it easier for the band to swing and assists the soloist by providing a more interesting accompaniment. This last observation is perhaps less noticeable in the Barber band, but nobody could deny that it swings.

The record contains many of the standard tunes of the trad band repertoire, which is no bad thing as they provide ideal tunes for this particular kind of performance and I found every track enjoyable in one way or another, either for a fine solo from one of the musicians or a pleasant vocal.

It must have been a big loss for the Barber band when Ottilie Patterson left; she added a lot to the band's performance and was a fine jazz vocalist. I understand that she returned to Northern Ireland, but I have not heard anything of her for some time. Both Acker and Kenny could turn in a decent jazz vocal, which they do on many of the tracks.

I was surprised that, on Acker's High Society, the clarinet player played the famous solo on the initial ensemble, something I have not heard before.

After listening to both CDs, I can easily understand how all three bands continue to fill concert halls up and down the UK and why the Barber, Bilk & Ball package can still fill the major concert halls. Long may they continue to do so!

 

Don Mather



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