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Barber Back in Berlin 1960

Lake LACD346



Disc 1 Playing time 59m. 00s.
1. Bourbon Street Parade
2. Georgia Cakewalk
3. Papa De Da Da
4. Soudan
5. What's I'm Gotcha
6. Lord, Lord, Lord
7. Sweet Georgia Brown
8. There'll Be a Hot Time in the Old Town Tonight
9. It's All Over
10. Heavenly Sunshine

Disc 2 Playing time 56m. 32s.
1. Hiawatha Rag
2. Majorca
3. Do Right Baby
4. New Orleans Hula
5. Hushabye
6. Wild Cat Blues*
7. Take Your Pick
8. Whistling Rufus
9. I Can't Give You Anything but Love
10. Come along Home to Me
11. When the Saints Go Marching In

*This track is misnamed in the tray insert and in the booklet. There it is listed as St. Philip Street Breakdown by George Lewis but is actually Sidney Bechet's composition Wild Cat Blues.

Recorded Deutschlandhalle, Berlin, May 4, 1960.

Chris Barber - Trombone, double bass (track 2-7), vocal (tracks 1-1, 6)
Pat Halcox - Trumpet, vocal (tracks 1-1, 6; 2-3)
Monty Sunshine - Clarinet, vocal (tracks 1-1, 6)
Eddie Smith - Banjo
Dick Smith - Double Bass
Graham Burbidge - Drums
Ottilie Patterson - vocals (tracks 1-8, 9, 10; 2-9, 10, 11)

Some of us-perhaps many of us-still remember the heady days of the very early fifties in the U.K. when traditional jazz was beginning to blossom and to sideline much of the pop music of the time-deathless paeans to doggies in the window, monkey honeymoons, and crying little white clouds. The story of the formation of the Chris Barber Jazz Band at that time is fairly well-known and does not need repeating. It went on to become arguably the most popular trad band in the U.K., and even with several replacements in the rhythm section, the band's status did not change as their sound remained fairly constant, the front line still being the "original" and Ottilie Patterson still singing with the group.

Barber and his men, while embracing the New Orleans style of emphasis on ensemble, differentiated themselves from others by "polishing" the ensemble sound (most improvising being left to the soloists), working out head charts and then executing them cleanly. Halcox's trumpet lead was not a forceful one and Barber played a very "light," punchy trombone-no long slurs and growling glissandi-and on clarinet Sunshine danced around the other two in the front line. The result was a bouncing, light rhythm that the back line complemented, the whole effect finding much favor with the fans. That sound is what we have here. The Berlin concert of 1960 contains both numbers that are often to be found in the Barber play lists, but others that seldom are or that are here recorded the first time. Among the latter are Heavenly Sunshine (disc 1), Take Your Pick, and Come along Home to Me (disc 2).

The Barber band was never a slouch when it came to tempo, and it charges out of the gate with Bourbon Street Parade, its signature tune, as if to get it out of the way and then get on with the program. The tunes that follow on the first disc, Georgia Cakewalk and Papa De Da Da, carry on where the first left off, and the same can be said of much of the rest of the playlist of that night, including Hiawatha, Majorca, and others on disc 2. That is not to imply that the renditions are impaired by the tempos, just that they are a bit unusual, given those one is used to hearing from other bands for many of these same tunes. The Barber group is obviously well rehearsed, witness the tight harmonies of the front line on tunes such as Papa De Da Da, Soudan, or Whistling Rufus, and the absence of flubs, despite this being a live recording. While there are the usual flaws that can creep into a live recording, such as someone being off-mike or being too close to a mike and no mixing remedy available later, these are very few and minor and can hardly be laid at the door of the musicians.

Well deserving of a share of the artist credit on this CD set, Ottilie Patterson sings on three tracks on each disc. She was such a large part of the band at this time, before the throat troubles that forced her to give up singing some time later. Here she is still in splendid form, her rendition of There'll Be a Hot Time in the Old Town Tonight almost compelling the listener to get up and strut as she deftly glides through the several key changes the band makes. Or there is the absolutely stunning blues in the following track, It's All Over, where her pitch is perfect as she hits every note squarely and the passion rises and falls as she interprets the lyric, using just the right touch of vibrato and supported by the sympathetic obbligatos of Halcox and Barber. I would concur with the judgment that she was Britain's greatest blues singer and compares favorably with her American counterparts.

So this is all classic Barber fare. Of the musician lineup, sadly only Barber is still with us-and still playing at eighty-six! It is fortunate that he heard about the tapes of this concert being up for sale on eBay in 2013 and managed to procure them from the eBay seller, and also that he made them available to Paul Adams, who in turn has released them on this double CD set. Lake Records generously has included them in the "twofer" category, which should make acquiring them fairly painless.
Bert Thompson

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