Top positive review
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Barber is best!
on 29 April 2009
When Chris Barber split with Ken Colyer, who was resisting almost everything except purist New Orleans, he went on to broaden his musical involvement to many forms of jazz in addition to being a major contributor to the `trad-boom' of the 1950s. `The Best Of Chris Barber' CD embraces those years, and apart from a remarkable multi-take syncopated recording of `The Entertainer' in 1971 all other tracks were recorded between 1955 and 1959 - arguably the best period of Chris Barber's jazz band. At the time with Chris on trombone were Pat Halcox on trumpet/cornet, Monty Sunshine on clarinet, and Ottilie Patterson as a phenomenal blues singer, plus support from banjo, bass and drums (but without piano). Such was the initial successful Barber line-up, and all together this CD demonstrates their abilities to harmoniously amalgamate, to reinforce one another, and to take solos.
The first 13 tracks are studio recordings starting with a powerful and surging `Sweet Georgia Brown' so listeners will immediately appreciate the mastery of Chris Barber on trombone. Following is the popular `Whistlin' Rufus', revealing superb ensemble playing with the peerless interweaving clarinet of Monty Sunshine. Then the next track stars Ottilie Patterson with a moving `I Can't Give You Anything But Love'; and later she displays her widely diverse talents with an up-tempo `I Wish I Could Shimmy Like My Sister Kate', a soulful `Careless Love', a sympathetic `St. Louis Blues' and a solid jazz standard `The Saints'. Monty Sunshine's first solo is `Petite Fleur' which was a deserved success in the `hit-parade', plus a further example as `Hushabye'. However for me the best of Monty's contributions to this CD is the clarinet test-piece within `High Society'. Perhaps the best illustration of Pat Halcox' talent is on `April Showers' or `Everybody Loves My Baby', though these display equally the band's magnificent ensemble and interspersed solo support that exemplifies the 1950s style of Chris Barber's traditional jazz.
The final 7 tracks are live recordings that also exemplify an aspect of the Chris Barber band as these are typical of the music played at concerts. The first, `Sheik Of Araby' includes a Chris Barber vocal, as does `You Rascal You', and together with `Old Kentucky Home' and `Sweet Sue', these are quintessential concert presentations. Applause tends to be cut short on this CD but there is no doubting the appreciation of the audiences. Same goes for Ottilie where she rises to the occasion and is applauded for a magnificent `Lonesome Road', and for Monty with a beautifully lilting `Bill Bailey'. Only `Mood Indigo' seems out of place but this Duke Ellington composition was a regular concert number and always well received - as it is on this CD.
Whoever selected the recordings for this CD and whoever `re-digitised' the sound are each of genius status. All 20 tracks are magnificent and they magnificently establish Chris Barber and his band as the best of the three-piece front line bands associated with traditional revival movements arrival in Britain. Over 50 years later the music of this CD is as fresh as ever and at the forefront of British jazz - Barber is best!