The Chris Barber Jazz band influenced a Generation of British Musicians
Donald Christopher Barber OBE (17 April 1930 – 2 March 2021) was an English jazz musician, best known as a bandleader and trombonist. He helped many musicians with their careers and had a UK top twenty trad jazz hit with "Petite Fleur" in 1959. These musicians included the blues singer Ottilie Patterson, who was at one time his wife, and Lonnie Donegan, whose appearances with Barber triggered the skiffle craze of the mid-1950s and who had his first transatlantic hit, "Rock Island Line", while with Barber's band. He provided an audience for Donegan and, later, Alexis Korner, and sponsored African-American blues musicians to visit Britain, making Barber a significant figure in launching the British rhythm and blues and "beat boom" of the 1960s.
The Chris Barber Jazz Band Influence
Some of the musicians Barber guided in their careers included the blues singer Ottilie Patterson, (briefly his wife) and Lonnie Donegan, whose appearances with Barber and contributed to kick start the skiffle craze of the mid-1950s. While with Barber, Donegan had a massive UK hit "Rock Island Line”. He provided an audience for Donegan and, later, Alexis Korner, and greatly promoted African-American blues musicians to visit Britain, making Barber a significant figure in launching the British rhythm and blues and "beat boom" of the 1960s.
The Chris Barber Band had a UK top twenty trad jazz hit with "Petite Fleur" back in 1959.
Chris Barber pursued and implemented his musical ideas in the broadest sense of “We want to play, play, play!”. On the one hand, this referred to the formations he led, whose music was based on traditional New Orleans jazz, but never strictly copied it, but always remained open to other musical influences and ideas and adapted them accordingly. On the other hand, from the very beginning, Chris Barber invited other musicians to concerts, tours or studio recordings with him and his bands – just as he played together with the most diverse musicians on stage and in the studio. It didn’t matter whether it was jazz, skiffle, rock or even classical music.
It was important to him to perform and play again and again; above all, it was important to him that the music corresponded to his taste and his ideas of quality. Chris Barber Jazz Band always sought contact with their audience; this is clearly evidenced by about 200 concerts a year and numerous live recordings.
Pat Halcox, trumpeter with the Chris BarberJazz Band since 31 May 1954, retired after playing his last gig with the Big Chris Barber Band on 16 July 2008. Halcox and Barber were together in the band for 54 years – the longest continuous partnership in the history of jazz music. This exceeds the stay of Duke Ellington and Harry Carney together for 48 years between 1926 and 1974.Tony Carter (reeds) also left the band at this time.
John Crocker (reeds) departed the band in 2003 after a 30-year stint. And Vic Pitt (double bass) retired in January 2007 after 30 years with the Chris Barber jazz band. His feature duet with the drummers of the day – "Big Noise From Winnetka" was not only a feature of the Barber concerts, but also his time with the Kenny Ball band just before joining Barber.
In 1972 with Irish Guitarist guitarist Rory Gallagher, Barber and his band recorded the great album “Drat That Fratle Rat”, described by Bob Stanley as an "unlikely but terrific trad jazz/blues rock fusion album”. The band toured with the American clarinettist Russell Procope in 1976 and with Dr. John in 1981. The Chris Barber jazz Band became the “Chris Barber jazz and Classical” when they delved into classical music. Barber commissioned and co-wrote a Concerto for Jazz Trombone in 1986 with Richard Hill, premiering behind the Berlin Wall on 2 October 1986 He also recorded the album Under the Influence of Jazz with The London Gabrieli Brass Ensemble in 1991.
Then, in 1998 The Chris Barber Jazz Band Barber expanded the band, mainly to play the music of the early Duke Ellington band, one of his great early influences. He was joined by second trombonist/arranger Bob Hunt and added another clarinet/sax and trumpet. After his only Australian and New Zealand Tour in 2000 he permanently grew the band to 11 members, eventually renaming it The Big Chris Barber Band in 2001.This allowed the band to broaden their range of music, although a spot was still reserved in the programme for the traditional six-man New Orleans line-up
Barber’s autobiography “Jazz Me Blues” was published in 2014, with co-author Alyn Shipton. He then retired on 12 August 2019, after some 70 years of performing. The band continued under direction of Bob Hunt. The members remaining in the Big Chris Barber Band in September 2019, carried on with Barber's full support, were: Bob Hunt (trombone/arranger), Mike Henry and Gabriel Garrick (trumpets), Nick White, Trevor Whiting, and Ian Killoran (reeds), John Watson (drums), John Day (double bass), Joe Farler (banjo & guitar).
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