|The Chris Barber Band with guest stars Louis Jordan and Edmond Hall
Another jazz scoop for WRC! A brand-new Barber record with a glittering bonus in the shape of two of America's greatest jazzmen. Eleven tracks including 'Weary Blues', 'Dardanella', 'Black and Tan Fantasy', 'Wrap your troubles in dreams' and 'No chance blues' (featuring Jordan on alto). Personnel: Chris Barber, trombone; Pat Halcox, trumpet; Ian Wheeler, clarinet and alto; Eddie Smith, banjo; Dick Smith, bass; Graham Burbidge, drums.
Lord Montague says:
One could hardly take an interest in British jazz over the past few years without being aware of Chris Barber and of the important part he has played in putting our home-made brand of jazz on its feet. At a time when the traditional revival seemed to be full of amateurism and the slap-happy approach that goes with it, Chris was one of the few who were responsible for giving British jazz a professional status and professional standards. He has done it not only in this country but also in his trips abroad to America and Europe. I see him as one who set out to make his mark in jazz with his eyes wide open, knowing exactly what he wanted to do, doing it with all the skill and sureness of a thoroughly trained musician and following an unswerving path, guided by his own intelligence and undaunted by criticism. With my own strong liking for the kind of jazz played by Ellington and other big bands, I can find real satisfaction in the same obvious musicianship shown in the arrangements that Barber's small group plays, and in the clean, sure-footed way they play them.
It has been a pleasure and a privilege to have been associated with Chris Barber. Apart from the fact that he is one of the pleasantest people in the jazz world, and one of the most intelligent, always ready to be helpful, always stimulating to talk to, his participation in jazz ventures in which I have had a hand, at Beaulieu and elsewhere, has had a large share of responsibility in the success of these events.
I believe great jazzmen act as a stimulus to each other's playing. The presence of Louis Jordan and Edmond Hall on this record was an obvious inspiration to the Barber band. And once again it has proved (if it needed proving) that British jazzmen can play as equals with the best jazz musicians in the world.
Peter Clayton's article:
The control cubicle was already full of people, so from where I stood I couldn't see down into the studio. Normally that wouldn't have bothered me. To look at, one recording session is very like another. Some peg-board panels, sufficient cable to carry the National Grid, and microphones -- on stands, on booms, and dropping from the ceiling like spiders. Oh, and some musicians. But on this occasion I needed to see, if only to find out who could be playing the harpsichord on a Barber session.
It was trumpeter Pat Halcox. He'd 'found' the instrument in a corner of the studio, and in a few spare minutes at the end of the session, had decided to see what it sounded like with the band. So when I walked in, there he was, clanging his way through the Muddy Waters number, Young Fashioned Ways.
Odd, but accidental, and I don't know if that will ever appear on record. But for what is ostensibly a traditional style band, the Barber crowd does some things -- deliberately -- which at first sight seem equally unlikely. I refer to the sort of American artists Chris brings in to work with the band. As I write, he's got the coloured blues singer, Curtis Jones, on a month's tour, but the habit was formed as far back as 1957, when Barber was partly instrumental in securing Big Bill Broonzy's last trip to Britain.
Since then Chris has been wholly or mainly responsible for bringing in such people as Rosetta Tharpe, Sonny Terry and Brownie McGhee, Muddy Waters and Otis Spann, Jimmy Cotton, Louis Jordan.
People like Big Bill Broonzy, and the blues-singing, guitar and harmonica duo of Sonny Terry and Brownie McGhee, were easy to take. They were in the great blues tradition, even if they didn't normally work with 'traditional' bands. But what about gospel singers? Brother John Sellers, who came in 1957, threw both the band and his audiences with his little tambourine and his big off-beat. At the time they seemed terribly foreign elements. But Sister Rosetta Tharpe, who toured later in the same year, was an unqualified success, in spite of her background of Negro church music and big bands. She was an accomplished duettist, and taught Ottilie Patterson to sing with her; she was a fine stomping guitar player; and with her finger-snapping offbeat and her rocking way with even the slowest tempos, she edged the band away from the stodgy rhythms which were once de rigeur for traditional groups. 'Sister was the greatest influence on us', says Chris; 'She showed us how to loosen up a bit.'
1958 brought two more magnificent improbables, Muddy Waters and Otis Spann, two of Chicago's leading rhythm and blues men. The grimmer purists, muffled in their thick scarves of bigotry, winced and called it rock and roll; but it was in fact genuine Negro city music, and Chris has used this type of material ever since.
For a while there was a lull in the importing side of the business. Then towards the end of last year, contact was made with Louis Jordan. Jordan, who'd had hit records in the forties with numbers like Is you is or is you ain't my baby? and Choo choo ch'boogie, is a singer who'd once worked with Chick Webb at the same time as Ella Fitzgerald, and went on to belong more to the beginnings of the rhythm and blues movement. But he's also an alto sax player with a hot, hoarse tone and a drive like a hammer. A strange companion for a banjo-driven traditional band, but it worked beautifully in a series of splendid concerts. More than that. Louis and the band got together in a recording studio, and the exciting results are now available to record buyers.
1962's other visitor wasn't seen in Britain. I refer to Edmond Hall, an unclassifiable clarinet player with a limpid, lyrical sound, and a vast range of jazz experience. He toured the Continent with the Barber band, and, again, while they were in Germany, he recorded with them. The musical results are so completely different from the Jordan session that you can see what Chris means when he says that the band gets something from each of its guests, some permanent extension of its capabilities. 'And that', he says, 'is the whole object of the exercise. That, and giving European audiences a chance to hear jazz musicians they might never have seen in the flesh otherwise.'
That the visitors have nearly all been singers, and that the one who wasn't a singer didn't come to Britain, is due to the baffling intricacies of the Anglo-American exchange system. You can bring in a vocalist; if you want an instrumentalist you've got to send one to America in exchange. As you may have heard (but as the Musicians' Union presumably has not), America is pretty well off for jazz soloists already, and we don't really have anybody they want. So in spite of doubts even within the band, Chris settled for vocalists, usually those who accompanied themselves as well. To alter a phrase, necessity is the mother of improvisation, and, as you shall hear, especially when you listen to the Louis Jordan collaboration, the results were refreshingly different. Like Pat's harpsichord.