Chris Barber's Jazz Band with Ottilie Patterson: Echoes Of Harlem.
LP recorded and released in 1955; Reissued in July 2004 as part of a 6-CD set, The Nixa Jazz Today Albums, on Castle Records (CMXBX 981).
Micky Ashman once told me he thought that Echoes Of Harlem was the best jazz LP ever to have been made in Britain. (This was in about 1964, several years after Micky had left the Barber band and was leading his own, not quite so successful unit, and a couple of years before he briefly rejoined Chris in the mid-1960s.)
Good as the record is, that assertion might have been debatable even then, and it's hardly true after fifty more years of recorded British jazz. Nonetheless, Echoes Of Harlem is unquestionably an outstanding recording, and one that should be in the collection of any serious Barber aficionado. The record, which, after three 10-inch LPs, was the first full-length 12-inch LP in the Barber catalogue, was recorded not much more than a year after the band was formed. It demonstrates the astonishing level of maturity and musicianship which the Barber band had attained, both individually and collectively, and is characterized by tight, inventive ensemble playing coupled with innovative and confident solos.
Each of the three tracks excerpted below is a unique gem, showcasing the talents of, in particular, Pat Halcox (Baby), Chris Barber (Porgy), and the band as a whole (Sweet Savannah Sue). I don't know how many times these tunes were played in concerts and other live performances, but one thing is certain: they were never recorded again by the Barber band.
A compact disc version of Echoes Of Harlem is available as part of the six-CD box set, The Nixa Jazz Today Albums.
ELJ, March 2009