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Reviewers: Tony Augarde [Editor], Steve Arloff, Nick Barnard, Pierre Giroux, Don Mather, James Poore, Glyn Pursglove, George Stacy, Bert Thompson, Sam Webster, Jonathan Woolf

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The Class of `78




At The Darktown Strutters Ball

Texas Moaner Blues

Stevedore Stomp

Immigration Blues

Extension 345

Heavy Henry

St Louis Blues

We Sure Do Need Him Now

Over The Waves


Ain't Misbehavin'

Ain't Gonna Give Nobody None Of My Jelly Roll

On The Sunny Side Of The Street

Petite Fleur

Sweet Georgia Brown

Down By The Riverside

Chris Barber (trombone, vocals, trumpet); Pat Halcox (trumpet, vocals); John Crocker (clarinet, alto sax. tenor sax): Sammy Rimington (alto sax, clarinet, flute): Roger Hill (electric guitar): Johnny McCallum (banjo, guitar): Vic Pitt (double bass, bass guitar): Pete York (drums)

Recorded December 1978 at Birmingham Repertory Theatre

LAKE LACD337 [62:32 + 49:31]

The Barber band paid an annual Christmas visit to the Repertory Theatre in Birmingham and this reissue of its 1978 gig gives us a reminder of its always appealing approach to song selection and arrangements. It also captured one of those little pivotal moments in the band’s history when personnel change took place, in this case the arrival of electric guitarist Roger Hill to replace John Slaughter. With the front line of Barber, Halcox and John Crocker now established and augmented by Sammy Rimington the feel was as good as ever.

The repertoire is not superficially broad, but the approach is. A solid singer like At The Darktown Strutters’ Ball has plenty of ear-catching counter-voicings and a good range of dynamic variance, something at which the Barber band was especially proficient. The slowly loping Texas Moaner Blues is a fine vehicle for Halcox’s tightly muted interjections, the leader’s tailgate trombone and the dovetailing of alto sax and clarinet, as well as Hill’s fine solo. I agree with Paul Adams’ notes about the forward thinking in Ellington’s rarely-encountered Immigration Blues – to me it could almost be a Carla Bley arrangement. Extension 345, by contrast, is a drum feature and a bit of a trial at pushing twelve minutes. Far better is the funky fusion engendered in Heavy Henry and the Chicago-style blues guitar solo onSt Louis Blues. A familiar Gospel brings variety, whilst the first disc closes with Rimington playing homage to George Lewis in Over the Waves, via his New Orleans swoops, decorations, embellishments and tonal variety. The Barber band was good at jump-swingers, much as Humph was, and Halcox excels in his taut solo on Sideways. The quotation level increases in this second half, Barber being especially outrageous in Aint’ Gonna Give. This is an acquired taste, and I’ve yet to acquire it. Halcox takes a Louis-derived, but independent-minded solo and vocal on On the Sunny Side of the Street and there’s a good Pops Foster-styled arco bass solo from Vic Pitt. The humour of Sweet Georgia Brown is probably more of the ‘you had to be there’ variety – it sounds a bit cringe-worthy now – but it certainly gets the crowd going.

This is certainly an enjoyable set; not outstanding, it’s true, but full of customarily good things.

Jonathan Woolf

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