Cornbread, Peas And Black Molasses
Chris Barber Jazz & Blues Band
CD: Timeless Records TTD 628
From the CD booklet:
“Same procedure as every year” – December 1998. Touring in Britain as usual approaching Christmas. We were now introducing the newest members of the band, who had joined in August but had played with us on the Continent until mid-November. Our two new musicians are perhaps no stranger to many listeners as both have been playing 30-40 years. Drummer Colin Miller travelled the European scene until the middle sixties and then took up a position with Sony Music, returning to full time playing in 1995. Recently featured with the excellent “Muggsy Remembered” band he has a wealth of experience in our sort of jazz. Clarinet-tenor saxophonist John Defferary spent more of his playing life on the Continent (first with Trevor Richards and later with Papa Bue) than in England. He is a great enthusiast and always entertaining. Paul Adams, the enthusiastic drummer and head of Lake Records (UK), was keen to record the new personnel live just as he did during our tour with Acker Bilk in 1996. We hope you enjoy listening to this music as much as we all did recording it. – Chris Barber
A strong point of the Chris Barber Jazz & Blues Band has always been the steady personnel. For instance, between 1956 and 1964 there was only one change when Monty Sunshine left at the end of 1960 to be replaced by Ian Wheeler. The current line-up has been together since the summer of 1998 but before that there were no changes from mid-1994.
Chris Barber (trombone, string bass, baritone horn and vocals) started the band on 31 May 1954. His trumpeter-cornettist then was Pat Halcox who still is with the band in 1999! The rest of the band's current personnel now consists of John Crocker (clarinet, alto and tenor saxophones, who joined in June 1968), John Defferary (clarinet, tenor saxophone, who replaced Ian Wheeler in August 1998; before that time he did a 12-year stint with the famous Papa Bue's Viking Jazz Band from Denmark); John Slaughter, who first was with the band between 1964 and 1978 and rejoined in August 1986; Paul Sealey (banjo, guitar; he replaced long-time member Johnny McCallum in the summer of 1994; bass player Vic Pitt (a member of Kenny Ball's Jazzmen between 1959 and 1977, then joined Chris Barber and never left); and drummer Colin Miller (he played for several years with Brian White's Magna Jazz Band before joining the Chris Barber Band in the summer of 1998).
On this CD one can hear the new line-up with their current repertoire. That means something old and something new. Of course the band opens the concert with their signature tune Bourbon Street Parade, followed by a very old ragtime number by Scott Joplin, Maple Leaf Rag, which the band first played during 1962, then forgot until 1998. Alligator Hop goes back to King Oliver, whose band was the first inspiration for Chris Barber. Here the title is a feature for two clarinets. Cornbread, Peas And Black Molasses brings back memories of the time when Chris Barber brought the famous blues duo Sonny Terry and Brownie McGhee to England (1958). The vocals here are done by Chris and Pat.
Mood Indigo and further in the programme Immigration Blues remind us once again of Barber's admiration for the old Duke Ellington Orchestra and the famous compositions from the twenties and thirties. As always Chris succeeds in bringing new life to Ellington titles as is especially well demonstrated in Immigration Blues. Isle Of Capri goes back to the days when Chris Barber was a member of Ken Colyer's Jazzmen (1953/1954) but which also proved to be a success at the concerts of the Chris Barber 1954 Reunion Band in 1994/1995. South Rampart Street Parade, made famous by Bob Crosby's Bob Cats in the late thirties, is played here completely as a collective improvisation without solos.
A show stopper at the band's concerts for some years now is Big Noise From Winnetka. This number originated 61 years ago in the Bob Crosby band. For Vic Pitt this title is a piece of cake: he played it way back in 1960 with Kenny Ball! The rest of the concert is filled with some titles which are already in the band's repertoire from nearly the beginning. St. Louis Blues is played here up-tempo and is a feature number for the three Johns in the band: a duet between the tenor saxophones of Crocker and Defferary plus some inspired blues guitar by Slaughter. Wild Cat Blues has always been in the band's repertoire since 1955 when it first was recorded by Monty Sunshine (cl), Chris Barber (b), and Lonnie Donegan (bj). These days it is a feature for two clarinets while Chris Barber plays Vic Pitt's string bass in the first half of the number.
The band ends the concert here with two of their old hits from the early days: Tight Like That, sung by Chris, and High Society, the famous test number for clarinetists, in this case for John Defferary. With these nearly 70 minutes of music you have an excellent reminder of a typical Chris Barber concert – Gerard Bielderman