Chris Barber Big Band at the Everyman, Cheltenham

Chris_barber2_1873962cIt’s hard to believe that Chris Barber is 83-years-old and still going strong. His concert at the Everyman last night showed he had lost none of the enthusiasm and if anything had gained a lot more sophistication.

He now performs mainly with his big band line-up consisting of ten virtuoso musicians, all of whom were outstanding. They played in a wide range of styles ranging from New Orleans to Duke Ellington with a bit of Miles Davis thrown in. Chris Barber has been the leading exponent of traditional jazz in this country for over sixty year but his influence goes even further that that. Here’s a little story.

One evening in early 1961 two young Chletenham musicians, jazz trumpeter John Keen and his friend Brian, went to see the Chris Barber Band at the Cheltenham Town Hall. Sitting in with the band that evening was the respected blues guitarist and singer, Alexis Korner. After the concert John and his friend went backstage to say hello to Korner. The friend explained he was a dedicated blues musician and Korner said that if he was ever in London he should look him up and he would introduce him to some of the capital’s young musicians. The friend was Brian Jones and the guys Korner introduced him to were Mick Jagger and Keith Richards. The rest, as they say, is history.              Michael Hasted