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

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Barbican Blues

Lake LACD 273




  1. Bourbon Street Parade
  2. Mary Had A Little Lamb
  3. Perdido Street Blues 
  4. Ory's Creole Trombone 
  5. Spanish Castles 
  6. Barbican Blues 
  7. Bugle Boy March 
  8. Good Queen Bess 
  9. The Weight / Caledonia Mission 
  10. Wildcat Blues 
  11. Rose Room 
  12. Basin Street Blues 
  13. Ice Cream
The Chris Barber Jazz and Blues Band
rec. Barbican Centre, 1982


The Chris Barber Jazz and Blues Band was the first jazz band to play the Barbican Theatre, London's newest concert hall behemoth. One of the most engaging things about the band then and now is its stylistically relatively pluralist approach. The programme mixes old standards with a loose limbed approach that pays dividends. Barber concerts seldom fall into routine gigs; there's always a bust of electric guitar or wailing saxophone to enliven proceedings, and even announced warhorses turn out to be clothed in newly arranged garb.

So the band was probably a safe bet for that 1982 gig at the Classical emporium that is the Barbican, and we have nearly eighty minutes to vouch for the fact. The concert opened in time honoured fashion with Bourbon Street Parade and once past that we have Mary Had A Little Lamb in which Barber takes the straight honours but trumpeter Pat Halcox shines, adding some loping Buck Clayton steel to the ensemble. The 1920s classic Perdido Street Blues gets a good makeover, opening with an Ellingtonian clarinet choir to the fore before the bass sparks a funky workout and an unleashed Chicago blues guitar solo from the indefatigable Roger Hill. Halcox hits it high and handsome in his solo. There's a strong King Curtis feel to this one.

Halcox plays interestingly throughout, sounding almost Johnny Coles-like on Spanish Castles, a song that receives a tight Soul based shakedown. And had the leader lent an ear to Jimmy Knepper whose tone and phrasing seem to haunt his own playing on this number?The guys in this band have always had wider ranges of interest than one might assume. Good Queen Bess is, of course, a number that doffs the hat to the shade of Johnny Hodges and cleverly, through doubling - at which the band is adept - and varied backings, the ensemble sounds decidedly bigger than it is.

The Weight / Caledonia Mission is unusual rep for even the CB band but with Halcox on flugelhorn it gets a relaxed, lyrical reading. A two clarinet front line starts off Wildcat Blues and justice is done to a dyed in the wool classic. Another that fits the same bill is Basin Street Blues, which is taken at a slower-than-usual tempo, with some Gospel tinged instrumental harmonies, Barber taking the solo honours immortalised by the august Jack Teagarden and introducing a few naughty quotations in his 'bone solo. His labyrinthine cadenza explores his classically trained roots somewhat. Finally we have the New Orleans swinger, Ice Cream, which starts with some nifty tune deconstruction before launching out with some earthy vocals.

It ends a genial, wide-ranging and above all fun concert.

Jonathan Woolf  


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