News from the National Jazz Archive
Newsletter 2021, No. 2, March

Coronavirus update

The Archive remains closed to visitors due to coronavirus, but our research archivist and volunteers are now able to return to the Archive, so will be happy to help with enquiries by email. And remember that our website holds hundreds of digitised images, journals, posters, interviews and other resources for you to explore and enjoy.

Some of our wonderful team of volunteers are continuing to work on projects from home, and their regular weekly sessions of sorting, accessioning, cataloguing and digitising are starting up again. Some meetings and discussions are carrying on with Zoom. 

In the meantime, stay safe and enjoy the links in the items that follow.

Jazz books on offer in half-price spring sale!

Thank you for supporting our book sales since June 2020, which have raised over £5000 for the Archive. Here is the next selection of books for sale, from the generous gifts and legacy donations by Lynne Barnes, Geoff Barton, Michael Brocking, Nick Cottis, Pam and Tony Elliott, Tony Farsky, Graham Langley, Jill Lince, Chris Lowe, Richard Pite and John Sturgess. 

The books this month cover Great writing about jazz, Jazz – the early years, Big bands and swing, Biographies and memoirs, and Jazz history and reference. We have several copies of most of these and want to make space in our store, so they are offered at half the previous price. 

Email to check that the ones you want are available before sending money. 

Darius Brubeck Quartet – save the date: 18 September

We are delighted to announce that our first fundraising concert this year is planned for 18 September, with the Darius Brubeck Quartet celebrating the music of Dave Brubeck. With Darius on piano will be Dave O’Higgins on sax, Matt Ridley on bass and Wesley Gibbens on drums. The group were scheduled to play for us last April so we are delighted to welcome them again, after such a difficult time.

The event will be held strictly in accordance with Government guidance and regulations. Further details will be available soon. 

Become a Trustee for the NJA

The National Jazz Archive is seeking two new trustees with expertise respectively in Archives and collection management, and Fundraising.

The successful applicants will be expected to share our ‘hands-on’ approach to support and take forward this dynamic and expanding organisation. 

More information about the roles is available here. The closing date for applications is 31 March. 

Phil Barnes

Phil Barnes died at the end of 2019, aged 82. He was a committed enthusiast for jazz and many other types of music all his life, and the Jazz Archive is most grateful to his family for passing on his collection of CDs, DVDs and books to raise funds for the Archive, through Rabbit Records, and through the book sales we are running. Phil had a varied taste in jazz ranging from Duke Ellington and Miles Davis following right through to modern jazz rock and jazz fusion together with some folk and rock (Bob Dylan was one of his passions).

Phil lived in Timperley, near Manchester, and regularly visited local venues such as the Band on the Wall and the Midland Hotel in Manchester. He played sax when he was younger, and was always appreciative of live music, and of people ‘having a go!’. On visits to the city, he would visit local record shops to keep up to date with new releases, and supported the buskers around the city by buying their CDs.

His enthusiasm for music was made clear by encouraging others to enjoy it – his daughter Lynne recalls him often saying “You must listen to this!”

Chris Barber – a giant of British jazz – and the favourite of the ‘School Jazz Club’ 

To many of us who discovered jazz in the 1950s and ’60s, it was Chris Barber, who died on 2 March at the age of 90, who first opened our ears to the music (writes Mike Rose). I organised a ‘jazz club’ at my secondary school where a group of us ‘hip’ students gathered at lunchtimes to listen to our favourite records. Without question it was the early Chris Barber Band that was by far the most popular. We could all list the line-up – Pat Halcox, Monty Sunshine, Lonnie Donegan etc. and of course, Ireland’s blues queen, Ottilie Patterson, who was of course married to Chris in 1959, though they divorced some 24 years later. 

We all knew the story about the Guv’nor, who’d jumped ship in the US and on his return, a band had been put together to feature the music that Ken Colyer had heard in New Orleans. 

As we also knew, eventually the band felt restricted by Ken’s musical preferences and the other band members voted Ken out and Pat Halcox came in to replace him. What followed was to change the face of British music in the most dramatic fashion.  

In 1955, when a last minute ‘filler’ track was recorded for the band’s latest album, it featured Lonnie, Chris on bass and the wonderful Beryl Bryden on washboard. It was the blue touch paper that brought Chris and British jazz to a wider public and, when released as a single, ‘Rock Island Line’ took not just the UK but the world by storm. It was the first debut record to be certified gold in the UK and reached number eight in the US top ten. The original members of the ‘school jazz club’ slightly resented that our pop-loving fellow students suddenly all wanted to join the club and become jazz fans!

Chris Barber went on to enjoy a near 70-year career and, despite complaints from some quarters, he was always open to changes in taste, but not to the extent that his own work lost focus. He was an articulate campaigner for jazz on and off the bandstand, a jazz archivist who brought what he cherished to new life. 

The rest, as is often said, is history, and a history that many readers will be familiar with. As for the ‘school jazz club’ members, they all went on to listen to a wide and varied range of jazz styles. But to this day, they are all eternally grateful to the world of jazz that Chris Barber introduced them to.

As a tribute to Chris, the Band and the members of the ‘school jazz club’, here’s a concert recorded in Germany during the 40th anniversary tour in 1994. I defy any fan of the Chis Barber Jazz Band not to get the same kick out of ‘Chimes Blues’ or ‘Hiawatha Rag’ that they did 60 years ago. And not least to see Monty back where he belongs. The ‘Isle of Capri’ begins the concert after 5m 30s.

Click the images from Jazz News in 1961 and 1962 above to read the full magazines on the NJA website.

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The National Jazz Archive was founded by trumpeter Digby Fairweather in 1988 and is supported by Essex County Council and the Heritage Lottery Fund.
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