Trombonist and bass player Chris Barber is the preeminent name in British trad jazz. A fixture on the British music scene since the early 1950s, he has led a number of excellent bands and can be heard alongside countless world-class players. The octogenarian, who in 2012 approaches the 60-year mark as a pro bandleader, contributed greatly to the evolution of the British blues and rock scene as a founding director of the legendary Marquee club, linked to the rise of bands such as the Who, Rolling Stones and Sex Pistols.
To celebrate Barber’s 80th birthday and lifetime of achievements in the business, Proper Records U.K. last year released Memories of My Trip, a two-disc anthology of selected recordings spanning the bandleader’s career, giving a comprehensive insight into his life and work and showcasing the music that made him one of the most influential figures in British jazz. The set, due out in the U.S. on May 8, via Proper American, should give U.S. listeners a taste of what they may have missed. The U.K.’s MOJO magazine gave the compilation four stars.
Barber was not only a hugely successful artist himself, he was also responsible for helping launch the careers of many other musicians, notably singer and banjo player Lonnie Donegan, blues singer Ottilie Patterson, and clarinetist Monty Sunshine, with whom Barber recorded a version of the great Sidney Bechet’s “Petit Fleurs,” which stormed the U.K. singles charts to reach #3 and sold over a million copies. Aside from trad jazz, Barber is well known for involvement with the blues, as well as R&B, gospel, skiffle and more.
As well as including several superb recordings of Barber’s own work with his first-rate jazz band, this collection features a number of selected cuts with great players from outside the usual jazz circles, all of whom hold him in deservedly high esteem, among them Eric Clapton, Dr. John, Muddy Waters, James Cotton, Mark Knopfler, Keith Emerson, Van Morrison and Andy Fairweather Low.