Symphony Of Jazz
Richard Hill and Chris Barber
(Promotional CD, Universal Music Publishing International, Released 1999).

Symphony Of Jazz is not a commercial CD but rather a promotional disc intended to generate interest in two sets of orchestral works written by Chris Barber and composer Richard Hill, and performed by the Chris Barber Jazz and Blues Band with the Große Rundfunk-Orchester Berlin.

As the sleeve notes tell us, Symphony of Jazz is a new, audience friendly package inspired by New Orleans jazz and now available for orchestras, concert promoters and sponsors alike. This introductory promotional album is compiled from live concerts and studio recordings made in Germany. Richard Hill and Chris Barber have performed some 30 concerts with various orchestras in Europe, developing the theme of traditional jazz in an orchestral setting. The two musical styles are natural partners, and it is not generally recognised how much European music culture influenced the shape of early jazz. As this CD will demonstrate, the musical partnership between jazz band and symphony orchestra creates a new, exciting and musically accessible form of concert going. As well as great early jazz classics such as King Oliver’s “West End Blues”, there are settings of Bix Beiderbecke’s piano compositions (much influenced by Débussy) and the entertaining programme allows room for new compositions such as “A New Orleans Overture” by Richard Hill, which explores gospel tunes, street vendor cries and the excitement of Mardi Gras. Symphony Of Jazz has proved to be a most welcome addition to the European concert repertoire. It is now being developed in the UK, both as a global concert package and as a theatrical production, inspired by the birth and early days of jazz in New Orleans around a century ago.

The CD is made up of selections from each of two recordings available on Timeless Records. The first is New Orleans Symphony (Timeless TTD610), a 2-CD set recorded in 1986. The second is also a 2-CD set, In His Element (Timeless TTD572), but in this case only one of the CDs features the band plus symphony orchestra, while the other CD consists of eight tracks from a regular band concert at the Fairfield Hall, Croydon, on 17 March 1990 (well worth buying just for Working Man Blues).

New Orleans Symphony was recorded live in Berlin on 3 October 1986 and consists of several “stand-alone” pieces, including such Barber classics as Lead Me On, Harlem Rag, and Mood Indigo, as well as new Barber compositions (Goin’ Up The River; Music from The Land Of Dreams). Perhaps its most notable feature is the 20-minute-long “Concerto for Jazz Trombone and Orchestra”, from which Ragtime and Stomp appear on the Symphony Of Jazz promotional CD. Unfortunately, Chris’s extended solo with the orchestra, Blues, is missing from the compilation.

The In His Element orchestra/band recordings (Berlin, July 1988) are also fairly well represented on Symphony Of Jazz, including New Orleans Overture, Alligator Hop, and a wonderful original, Basieland, a driving feature for saxist John Crocker.

Symphony Of Jazz is well worth searching for on eBay, as it does come up for sale from time to time. As an added incentive it includes three tracks (orchestra only) that didn’t appear on the original CDs: West End Blues, In A Mist, and Singing The Blues. However, you really should buy the original CDs, New Orleans Symphony and In His Element, which are available online from the Timeless Store.

Music: Basieland || Blues || Ragtime || Stomp || Working Man Blues

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