Chris Barber Big Band
DAVID WAKEFIELD Norwich Playhouse
The average age of the audience was a bit of a giveaway. Could these have been teenagers who danced to such tunes as Whistling Rufus and Bobby Shaftoe back in the 50s?
If so, it was good to be able to go along to pay tribute to a Mr Consistency of British jazz: an ever-present from those early days of the British revivalist movement. Not only has he been playing for well over five decades: Chris Barber has even enjoyed pop chart success (he played bass on Lonnie Done-gan's 1954 hit Rock Island Line).
Barber has moved consider-able distances since then. He was brave enough to horrify the “traddies” by introducing electric guitarist John Slaughter into his band many years ago, and this fine 12-piece takes
the progression even further.
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Always a lover of Duke Elling-ton, Barber uses a lot of his early material, nicely arranged by Bob Hunt, and it works because, with his three versatile reed players, he has the tonal colours to make it do so. Tunes like Black And Tan Fantasy and Jungle Nights In Harlem conjured up visions of the Cotton Club's great days.
It was a nice touch, also, to feature a band within a band - a nice little musical vignette of the original Chris Barber Band six-piece line-up, featuring original trumpeter Pat Halcox on tunes like Precious Lord Take My Hand, and The Martinique.