Chris Barber, U.K. Jazzman, gets U.S. Compilation on Proper
To followers of 20th century British music, Chris Barber needs no introduction: The trombonist and bass player is the pre-eminent name in British trad jazz. A fixture on the British music scene since the early 1950s, he has led a number of excellent bands and can be heard alongside countless world-class players, a title he can surely also claim for himself. The octogenarian, who in 2012 approaches the 60-year mark as a pro bandleader, contributed greatly to the evolution of the British blues and rock scene as a founding director of the legendary Marquee club, linked to the rise of bands such as the Who, Rolling Stones and Sex Pistols.
To celebrate Barber’s 80th birthday and lifetime of achievements in the business, Proper Records U.K. last year released Memories of My Trip, a two-disc anthology of selected recordings spanning the bandleader’s career, giving a comprehensive insight into his life and work and showcasing the music that made him one of the most influential figures in British jazz. The set, due out in the U.S. on May 8, 2012 via Proper American, should give U.S. listeners a taste of what they may have missed. The U.K.’s MOJO magazine gave the compilation four stars.
Barber was not only a hugely successful artist himself, he was also responsible for helping launch the careers of many other musicians, notably singer and banjo player Lonnie Donegan, blues singer Ottilie Patterson, and clarinetist Monty Sunshine, with whom Barber recorded a version of the great Sidney Bechet’s “Petit Fleurs,” which stormed the U.K. singles charts to reach #3 and sold over a million copies. Aside from trad jazz, Barber is well known for involvement with the blues, as well as R&B, gospel, skiffle and more.
From his early days with trumpeter Ken Colyer right through to more recent performances where he is still playing at the top of his game, Barber has always displayed an open-minded approach. As well as including several superb recordings of Barber’s own work with his first-rate jazz band, this collection features a number of selected cuts with great players from outside the usual jazz circles, all of whom hold him in deservedly high esteem, among them Eric Clapton, Dr. John, Muddy Waters, James Cotton, Mark Knopfler, Keith Emerson, Van Morrison and Andy Fairweather Low.
The company he keeps is impressive enough, but it is undoubtedly Barber who shines on this double album, his talents matched easily by the obvious enthusiasm and joy apparent in his playing. With an introduction by the Times of London jazz critic and BBC Radio 3 broadcaster Alyn Shipton and personal liner notes complied by Shipton in conversation with Chris himself, Memories of My Trip is perfect for those discovering this music for the first time, or for old friends for whom Barber needs no introduction.