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May 1999

Barrett Deems Big Band
Groovin' Hard
Lydia

When the late Barrett Deems’ name comes up among drummers, it is usually in connection with the fabled speed of his hands and feet. Less frequently, it summons memories of the swinging support he lent to Muggsy Spanier’s sextet from 1951 to 1954, the Louis Armstrong All-Stars from ’54 to ’58, the Jack Teagarden Sextet from 1961 until Jack’s death in 1964, and his subsequent activities with a host of other trade and mainstream alliances. Noted as much for his humorous eccentricities as for his compulsion to accompany virtually every moment of life with an appropriate beat, Barrett’s latter-day interests reflected an equal balance between combo and big band projects. As revealing as any of his recent albums is Groovin’ Hard, which showcases the drummer at the helm of an accomplished 16-piece Chicago-based band, whose 13 charts were in part designed by such established writers as Don Menza, Neal Hefti, Louie Bellson, and Frank Foster, and which feature skilled solo work by tenorman Frank Catalano, trombonists Loren Beinford and Audrey Morrison, trumpeter Manny Lopez, baritonist Brian Patti, altoman Andy Farber, and others, including the leader himself.

Originally published in May 1999
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