By Chris Barber
This new offering from legendary English jazz trombonist Chris Barber is a double CD retrospective of his sixty years in the music industry working with some of the most important names around. Across the 31 tracks, he demonstrates why he has become one of the most important (and most under appreciated) musicians of our era and he gets to work with the likes of Eric Clapton, Jools Holland and Mark Knopfler in the process.
It is important to note that these are not new songs but a collection of some of Barber's favourite performances across his career and as such some of the tracks are a little substandard but this, along with the comprehensive accompanying booklet, only adds to the sense of this recording being a genuine piece of musical history.
Disc one entitled 'Blues, Jazz and Gospel,' opens with the titular 'Memories Of My Trip' featuring Brownie McGhee and is an excellent example of the old fashioned raconteur style of song writing dominated by a nostalgic account of life on the road. Much of the first disc continues in a similar vein just with different featured vocalists of varying levels of fame. Eric Clapton's contribution comes in the form of 'Weeping Willow', an evocative and lovelorn blues number which is enjoyable if unspectacular. One of the strongest numbers from the collection is the Muddy Waters ode to 'Kansas City' featuring some really beautifully worked guitar and keys sections, but it is Van Morrison with the Chris Barber Skiffle Group's 'How Long Blues,' where Barber himself really shines. The number opens strongly with a solid horns section complemented by a soulful vocal from "Van the Man" and finishes with a harmonica part that would put faux-blues men like Mick Jagger to shame. The first half of the collection ends superbly with the emotional and fittingly titled 'Another Sad One' featuring Barber's late guitarist John Slaughter (who died last year and to whom this collection is dedicated).
The second disc opens with 'St Louis Blues' featuring an authoritative female vocal from Ottilie Patterson in the style of the greats like Ma Rainey and Bessie Smith. The recording itself is far from flawless but that makes it all the more organic and gives it that genuine quality which is so fundamental to the blues and jazz sound. Elsewhere, 'Rock Candy' is a far more upbeat and rockier number featuring Keith Emerson and recorded in the 1960s at the height of rock 'n' rolls popularity and potency, transporting you back to a time when this kind of music felt dangerous and new. Mark Knopfler adopts a country twang for his outstanding performance on 'Blues Stay away From Me' before the collection closes with the delicate and appropriately sentimental 'Til The Next Time I'm In Town'.
This is a CD that takes you on a journey through Jazz , Blues and Gospel across the past half century. It's a homage to musicianship, brotherhood and the traditional forms of music which are still ever present in everything we hear today, and although this collection is not for everyone, if you have even a passing interest in this type of music then fix yourself a drink and settle down for a two hour master class.