Review: The Chris Barber Big Jazz Band, King's Hall, Ilkley, Sunday, December 4 2016

AN almost full house greeted the arrival of Chris Barber at the front of the stage. Chris introduced each musician in his own very personal style. Then, in time honoured tradition the Band opened with the Dixieland jazz March Bourbon Street Parade - Barber himself effortlessly switching from his trombone to supply the vocals. His singing style might be described as remarkably incisive for someone twenty years younger; but Chris is eighty six and he has no plans to stop anytime soon. His renditions of Cornbread, Peas and Black Molasses (the title refers to a "delicacy" given to prisoners in Pensylvania state penitentaries) is lean and mean. The Gospel song Take My Hand Precious Lord acquires added resonance when Chris sings the words. Going Home by Ken Colyer - an early bandmate with whom he parted company over 50 years ago - is another vocal highlight.

The Band maintains its sheen of brilliance and superb ensemble under Chris's enduring leadership. Back in 1955, Wild Cat Blues featured Lonnie Donegan (banjo) Chris Barber (string bass) and Monty Sunshine (clarinet). Sixty years on; Joe Farler, Jackie Flavelle and Bert Brandsma make their respective instruments stand out just as clearly. In 1953 the Band's version of Sidney Bechet's Petite Fleur made it to No 3 in the UK Singles Chart. This delightful piece sounded as if freshly minted in the intimate King's Hall.

Classic Ellingtonia remains a linchpin of the Band's repertoire: the audience loved such Duke Ellington greats as East St Louis Toodle-Oo, Rent Party Blues, Merry Go Round, Black and Tan Fantasy, Rockin' in Rhythm and Jungle Nights in Harlem.

When The Saints Go Marching In ended the concert officially but gales of applause earned an extra Chris Barber classic - Ice Cream, with lyrics by former trumpeter Pat Halcox.

The Chris Barber Big Jazz Band's concert was promoted by the Friends of the King's Hall and Winter Garden

by Geoffrey Mogridge