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Guy Barker was the first British jazz artist to be signed by Verve's international department to be promoted world-wide. This 1995 album was his first release under that contract and, while subsequent albums have been equally good, there is a special sense of occasion about this one. The band is an international affair, too, featuring Icelandic saxophonist Sigurdur Flosason and Italian pianist Bernardo Sassetti, along with bassist Alec Dankworth, drummer Ralph Salmins and Barker himself on trumpet. Unlike most contemporary trumpeters, whose audible influences begin with Clifford Brown or Miles Davis, Barker is a player with a remarkable breadth of reference. It is easy to detect from his playing that an early influence was the Ellington cornettist Rex Stewart (in fact, one piece here is entitled "Oh, Mr Rex!"). His repertoire of Stewart-style half- valve and other "dirty" effects imparts a wonderfully varied texture to his improvisations, especially when contrasted with the clear, sunny tones derived from another of his favourites, Bix Beiderbecke. For all that, he remains a thoroughly modern player, always alert to new developments and possibilities. --Dave Gelly