Chris Barber Bandbox, Volume Three: Best Yet!
Chris Barber's Jazz Band with Ottilie Patterson
Lake LACD219 / Released in September 2005 / Original recordings 1960-1962.
Best Yet! (Chris Barber Bandbox, Volume Three), by Chris Barber’s Jazz Band with Ottilie Patterson, is one of the great milestones in the 55-year span of Chris’s musical career. On the surface, the major change from the music and records that preceded it was the arrival of reedman Ian Wheeler to replace the departed Monty Sunshine. True, Ian had recorded with the band before Best Yet! – being first introduced to the Barber audience on Chris Barber International Volume Three / Barber at the London Palladium (now reissued on Lake LACD 210D). But it was with Best Yet! that Ian’s warm clarinet sound – coupled with his mastery of the saxophone – began to influence the band’s musical persona and direction.
Equally as important as Ian’s joining the band were the cohesion and skill displayed on this record by the rest of its members – a true unit that had been together for five years by this point, thus taking advantage of the growing maturity of the individual members, and their confidence and skill playing together as a group. Nowhere is this more evident than in the driving Stevedore Stomp, a number that had been recorded some seven years earlier, but tackled here with an obvious delight in ensemble playing that few if any of Britain’s other traditional jazz bands of the time could conceive of, let alone hope to emulate. All eleven of the other tracks from the original LP on this indispensable CD are equal gems in their own right, but perhaps Basin Street Blues should be mentioned as an especially outstanding performance, featuring Ian’s soprano sax and Ottilie Patterson’s passionate and distinctive voice.
In addition to the wonderful music, what is most notable about this CD is the quality of the sound. By now we are almost coming to expect this from Paul Adams’s skillful re-mastering for Lake Records, but it’s particularly welcome in this instance. Many of the LP’s tunes have never before been available on compact disc, so it’s an absolute delight – not to say revelation! – for those of us who own a much-played 45-year-old mono LP to hear this music in clear stereophonic sound.
If all of this was not enough, Best Yet! comes with 13 bonus tracks, including the A and B sides of several 45-rpm singles recorded and released at more or less the same time – Revival / New Orleans Parade; Blueberry Hill / I’m Crazy About My Baby; Down By The Riverside / When The Saints Go Marching In; It Looks Like A Big Time Tonight / Cottage Crawl – the last a slow and bluesy Barber composition that probably no-one but the longest-time fans has ever heard. There are also some alternate takes, plus a novelty song that perhaps should better be left unmentioned!
All in all, Best Yet! (Chris Barber Bandbox, Volume Three) is one of the most welcome reissue CDs in recent years, and one that all Barber fans, newcomers and old-timers alike, should have in their collections.