Jazz Blog

BRICE, GOLDING, KAISER, MOORE, PRÉVOST, The Secret Handshake with Danger, Vol. One **** (4 star) rating

577 Records · Olie Brice, Binker Golding, Henry Kaiser, N.O. Moore, Eddie Prévost: Excerpt I really like The Secret Handshake with Danger, Vol. One especially the first of these two very long 'Door' improvisations but both are the real deal. The …

Published: 3 Mar 2021. Updated: 28 days.

I really like The Secret Handshake with Danger, Vol. One especially the first of these two very long 'Door' improvisations but both are the real deal. The excerpt on Soundcloud heralding release gave a good clue and hearing the whole record a few times since having got in touch with the label for a full review copy since it is even better. Binker Golding is key to the ensemble sound and the way he works with Henry Kaiser especially is a mind blowing and highly stimulating trip. But make no mistake this is collective free improvisation and needs to be understood completely as a totality. I've long been a fan of Binker's and remember first meeting him in a place called the Milkbar on Soho's Bateman Street in 2010 to conduct a Jazzwise interview and then later enjoying Dem Ones a lot both the record and hearing him and Moses Boyd rip it up at Brilliant Corners in Dalston one time before they deservedly trousered the MOBO for best jazz act and began to be much better known. At first Binker's main influence as I hear it was Denys Baptiste and when the saxist plays hard bop, for instance on the Charles Tolliver record released by Gearbox last year, you can still discern that thread a bit. However, on free improv records where I think the Londoner's heart really lies, it is where he is best of all. As previously reported The Secret Handshake with Danger, Vol. One was recorded in London last year and is on NYC free-improv label 577. Note Eddie Prévost does not play in a multi-directional style (eg the pervasive approach that Rashied Ali introduced that a lot of free-jazz drummers quite sensibly adhere to) so it is interesting to have his input. I can't really describe his style with a neat phrase. However Prévostian is enough, best and accurate. Finally I love Henry Kaiser's playing here. Certainly one of the best records I have heard in months. Free your minds and continue to rage against the machine. Stunning. SG. Out on 12 March.

Tags: Album / EP reviews

Chris Barber RIP

Chris Barber has died aged 90. RIP. See Norman Lebrecht's classical music blog Slipped Disc. A legend of trad jazz, there was no one quite like Barber. Harnessing the glories of jazz and the blues, he led his own bands for decades, keeping on …

Published: 2 Mar 2021. Updated: 50 days.

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Chris Barber has died aged 90. RIP. See Norman Lebrecht's classical music blog Slipped Disc.

A legend of trad jazz, there was no one quite like Barber. Harnessing the glories of jazz and the blues, he led his own bands for decades, keeping on keeping on.

Speaking on the phone from his home near Hungerford back in 2017 for a piece in LondonJazzNews I felt immediately as if I had known him for years but we had never met and the only time I’d been lucky enough to see him live was on a fun occasion in the Hippodrome in his old stomping ground of Golders Green in 2000 when he turned 70 and that as it turned out was the part of north London not far from where he grew up in although he was born in Welwyn Garden City, Hertfordshire, in 1930.

His career in music had started earlier at the dawn of the 1950s inconsequentially enough and just out of his teens. “I was an amateur mathematician. I was listening to the American Forces Network radio, AFM, and local request programmes and played in pubs.” Living in north London, around Hampstead and Edgware, he was fond of cricket and would go down to Lord’s not too far away in St John’s Wood to watch the game. His middle class parents were socialists. Trad jazz much later in the 1950s became the soundtrack of the Ban the Bomb generation and the Aldermaston marches. His first wife Naida Lane was a dancer, the daughter of a Ghanaian. “Naida went to ballet school, and she was a lovely dancer,” Chris said. While there she encountered racism and she stopped training and instead began to work in music hall and later for the singer Shirley Bassey. Chris remembered how they met: ‘I remember seeing Naida at Collins’ Music Hall in north London in the Hot from Harlem black variety show. I met her, got together, we married at a registry office on the Harrow Road and lived in a flat down near Notting Hill Gate.” They parted eventually and divorced later. “She wanted a stage life of her own. We kept in touch.”

Things took off for Barber with skiffle but Dixieland jazz was more his thing. Skiffle was a bass heavy rudimentary style imported from black American traditions possessing plenty of crowd appeal and often seen now as a precursor to rock’n’roll but dismissed sniffily by some like blues guru Alexis Korner yet embraced wholeheartedly by the public who made a star of Lonnie Donegan. Chris was familiar with skiffle. He had found an old 1928 record and the party term he says was “occasionally used in the late-1930s by black musicians.” Lonnie, he says was a “dedicated cheeky chappie,” more a music hall performer adding approvingly: “He was a good banjo player.” Van Morrison many years later with Barber and Donegan recalled the skiffle sound decades on not many years before Donegan died with the release in 2000 of a live album that they had made a few years before based on a concert at the Whitla Hall in Belfast, a city Barber knows well and the city where he met his second wife singer Ottilie Patterson who he married at the end of the 1950s.

Barber has had an incredible career in music which he has written about in his 2013 autobiography Jazz Me Blues. He has met and performed with many of the greats spanning not just jazz and the blues, playing for instance with Muddy Waters in America and admiring the way that he could retune his guitar perfectly in front of an audience, but gospel and rock. He speaks fondly of his encounters with Louis Armstrong. “A nice man. He just loved the music.”

A founding director of the famed London venue the Marquee in 1958 we talked a little about Harold Pendleton the businessman who ran the club. Chris mentioned Pendleton’s north of England background a bit and says, somehow it seems important to him beyond trivia, that Pendleton was an amateur drummer. Chris clearly relished those days, the place wasn’t a pub so as a club had a different vibe and he says onstage at the Marquee, which was on Oxford Street first and then later Wardour Street in its earliest history (and Charing Cross Road even later), it “wasn’t rotten” to be on stage in terms of the sound, unlike a lot of places.

Barber toured a lot back then, some things don’t change. On his gig sheet at that time of the interview dates coming up criss-crossing England included during May and June alone, Lichfield, Bishop’s Cleeve, Haywards Heath, Stoke-on-Trent, Hunstanton, Aylesbury and Doncaster before the band were to head to Scotland later in the summer and then down to London in September. In Sixties Liverpool Barber was playing places like the huge 2,300-seater Empire theatre when The Beatles started out. Jazz was completely the thing then but not for long with the benefit of hindsight.

“The locals weren’t taking the Beatles seriously at first, but after our show we went to the Cavern and had a drink with [clarinettist] Terry Lightfoot and standing by the bar was John, Paul, Ringo and George, Lennon trying to convince [Barber band clarinettist] Ian Wheeler to be their manager!”

Chris was matter of fact when I ask him if ‘Rock Island Line,’ a hit single in both the UK and US in 1955, changed his life in any way? ‘No,’ he says quickly enough, then moderating a little: ‘Sort of. It was Lonnie’s record but people knew I played the slap bass on the record. Van Morrison was an enthusiast of the song, Van liking the blues side. He was sincere about it.’ Jokingly, he says, almost as an aside and with an understated gravitas that the music industry is not big on sincerity. Barber has been a regular guest performer with Van Morrison over many years and they remain good friends.

As for singer Ottilie Patterson, like Morrison, also from Northern Ireland but further from the city streets that Morrison was familiar with hailing instead from small town County Down, Chris during the conversation frequently mentioned playing in Ireland both north and south, and in his band currently and for some time was Northern Irish bassist Jackie Flavelle who used to have a long-running radio show certainly close enough for jazz on the Newtonwards-based commercial station Downtown. Chris said Patterson, who died in 2011, “was a lover, a purveyor, of the blues.” They met not far from Ards in Belfast itself. Barber’s family line, he tells me later in the conversation, goes back to County Monaghan, and he tells me his great grandfather was a Presbyterian church minister in Tydavnet who left for England before the famine.

Known mainly as a trombone player I ask him if Kid Ory was a big influence. Listening to Ory I can hear shades of the New Orleans early jazz legend a little in the way Barber phrases and wails. But he says no, instead he said it was Honoré Dutrey from King Oliver’s Creole Jazz Band who he liked best explaining that he liked him for his “raunchy style” expanding: “Dutrey played melodic phrases between melodic phrases. It was an acquired taste.” SG