The First Eleven
The Big Chris Barber Band
Timeless Records CDTTD650
Released July 2002

The First Eleven, recorded in Birmingham on December 16, 2001, was the first commercially-released recording of the new Big Chris Barber Band. The eleven tracks provide a fine introduction to the new “sound,” which adds an entirely different flavour to tunes that have frequently been recorded before, such as Bourbon Street Parade and When The Saints Go Marching In. In fact, only two of the tracks have never been previously recorded by the Barber Band, Alice Blue Gown (a 1920s show tune) and Sweetness. As producer Paul Adams comments in his liner notes, “the sound of the seven-piece front line in full flight is quite awesome.” The First Eleven is an indispensable CD marking the start of the latest direction in the history of the Chris Barber Band, and is the last full CD of recordings with 35-year band member John Crocker on reeds.

In his liner notes, Chris writes as follows: "In September 2000, I had the pleasure of visiting Vancouver, BC, Canada to play with a most interesting band called Sweet Papa Lowdown, led by Jeff Shucard, singer, guitarist, and music history enthusiast. He had found a number of early compositions by American commedian Jimmy Durante who, at the beginning of his career, had been an enthusiastic Jazzman, playing piano and leading his 'New Orleans Jazz Band' and these compositions seemed very promising. Sweet Papa Lowdown had recorded several titles, including an enchanting piece called Sweetness which Jeff had the excellent idea to transpose into waltz time. The idea and his recording so appealed to Bob Hunt and myself that I asked Bob to arrange it further so that our new 11-piece band could play it. It is on this record and we thank Jeff Shucard and his associates for the excellent idea." You can listen to a brief excerpt of the Barber band version of Sweetness by clicking on the link below, and then compare it with the earlier version by Sweet Papa Lowdown from their Lost & Found CD.
Here is another review of The First Eleven, by Brian Harvey of The Hot Jazz Channel. Brian is including a track from this CD in his August 2007 playlist.
Recorded in December 2001, this was I believe the first recording by the - then new - Big Chris Barber Band. But it suffers not from newness or rawness - instead it is a tour-de-force of sustained high-energy excitement that may in time be proved to be the very best of all Chris Barber's recordings. Indeed, hearing this same band live at a weekend jazz "do" recently, my hard-to-please jazz writer colleague Brian Mulligan commented that this is "the best jazz band in the world". And he's right - every man here is a star in his own right. They all solo with originality and authority and the arranged passages have a verve and vitality that is unequalled. They are, in a word, stupendous. I'll say it again - this is a brilliant record of a brilliant band and never had Chris himself played better. He sounds younger and more vital then ever.
Personnel: See the Discographical Details for this CD .
Recording date & location: December 16, 2001 at Birmingham Repertory Theatre.
Music: Chimes Blues and Sweetness
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