Saturday, December 01, 2012


at the Civic Theatre

"I last heard your band in 1955 …" people are always saying to Trad legend Chris Barber, back at the Civic last week.

He has always wanted to recreate the Cotton Club sound, and though he also evoked the three-piece, and the sextet, of his youth, it was the Ellington that really impressed, with the seven-strong front line.

This gig was remarkable for what it lacked. No music stands, no banter, no endless encores, no concessions to advancing years. Barber did all his own solos, sang vocals, gave drily witty introductions, and sprinted out to the foyer in the interval to chat and sign CDs. And he has assembled an excellent group of players for this tour. His chart hit from the 50s, Petite Fleur, was brilliantly recreated, with Richard Exall on clarinet. The other trombone – excellent in the bluesy numbers – was Bob Hunt, who did many of the arrangements for the band.

Two hours of first-class jazz – Bourbon Street, Wild Cat Blues, Jubilee Stomp, Rockin' in Rhythm – with pin-point lighting and sound reinforcement sympathetic to the venue. Climaxing with When The Saints, given a virtuosic chorale opening to showcase these superb jazzmen [and the outstanding flautist Amy Roberts].

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