[Dixielandjazz] Jazz Concert Review

Jazzjerry at aol.com Jazzjerry at aol.com
Mon Dec 6 16:43:39 PST 2004

Hi all,

Every now and then Steve Barbone posts a copy of a jazz review extracted from 
the New York Times or a similar journal. Most are of modern aspects of the 
music so in an attempt to redress the balance I though I would attempt a review 
myself of a concert I attended last Friday night. I hope that someone might 
find it interesting man and maybe others will have a go at similar reviews. I'm 
not a professional writer as will become patently obvious to those who venture 
further down the page!

The Big Chris Barber Band - Orwell Park School, Nr. Ipswich, Suffolk, U.K. - 
Friday 3rd December

This venue is unusual in that it is the sports hall in a private 'prep' 
school (that is a fee paying boarding school for children of between 5 and 13 
years) established in a large old house and grounds set deep in the Suffolk 
countryside. I guess there are around 400 pupils of both sexes and I undersatnd that 
there is a strong emphasis on music in the school - mainly classical. The 
Barber band has played a gig at the school in late November or early December for 
the past 29 years and this year the concert co-incided with the centenary of 
the local Rotary club who obviously had a large block booking  and had enjoyed 
a pre-concert reception!

The audience was around 700 to 800 I would guess plus about 200 of the pupils 
who took up the first few rows.

The venues for most Chris Barber gigs consist of theatre and concert halls up 
and down the country and all over Europe and this school concert is somewhat 

For those who do not know the history of the Chris Barber Band is has been 
going as a fully professional outfit for just over 50 years and boasts what is 
probably the longest musical partnership anywhere in jazz. Pat Halcox took over 
the trumpet chair when the band was launched under the Chris's name in 1954 
and he is still there. For many years the band varied between six and eight in 
personnel but about three years ago three extra players were brought in and 
the lineup now totals eleven, Pat Halcox and Mike Henry on trumpets, the leader 
and Bob Hunt on trombones, John Defferary, Richard Exall and Tony Jackson on a 
large array of reed instruments, Andy Kuc on banjo and guitar, John Slaughter 
on guitar (with the band since 1964!), Vic Pitt on bass and Colin Miller on 

The repertoire of the band is varied but if there is any specialism it is in 
excellent interpretations of the late 1920s and 1930s music of Duke Ellington 
with wonderful  arrangements being provided by Bob Hunt. In fact I might go as 
far as to suggest that this band is one of the best anywhere in this area. 
They are not transcriptions or reconstructions of the Ellington band but new 
interpretations in the style. Not that the band confines itself to this style of 
jazz and during the course of the evenings entertainment we had a superb 
interpretation of "All Blues" from the Miles Davis 'Kind of Blue' album with a 
featured duet between Jackson on flute and Slaughter on blues guitar, a  
'dixieland' (or trad) six piece setting of the Wilbur De Paris tune 'Martinique', a 
romping New Orleans bluesy version 'Cornbread, Peas and Black Molasses', a gentle 
interpretation of Bechet's 'Petite Fleur' which featured the clarinet of 
Defferary and the guitar of Kuc and a real barnstormer duet between Pitt and 
Miller with the Haggart and Bauduc novelty 'Big Noise From Winnetka' which closed 
the first half of the concert.

Maybe time is beginning to take it's toll on Messrs Barber and Halcox (both 
are now 74) and some more of the brass parts are being passed on to the younger 
players but when called upon both Gents showed that their talents and musical 
imaginations are still very there to be demonstrated to all.

>From the opening bars of their signature tune 'Bourbon Street Parade' through 
to the rousing finale version of 'The Saints' (it sounded fresh in their 
hands!) this was how a jazz concert should be. Well planned, varied music, 
wonderful arrangements, and above band members and audience who appeared to enjoy the 
whole event. The standing ovation at the end was very well deserved.

Judging by the remarks I heard as we filed out of the building a good time 
was had by all and I'm sure that the youngsters who were lineing up at the sales 
table to buy CDs of the band and then getting them autographed will have gone 
to bed with good music ringng in their ears.

The band show no signs of slowing down from their exhaustive touring schedule 
and I shall catch them again when they appear in Norwich in February and 
Whitley Bay in July.

Thanks for reading (if you have got this far!)


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