Sunday, July 22, 2012

Chris Barber's Jazz Band: Petite Fleur

Visiting the National Rail Museum last week reminded me of this track. Originally recorded by Sidney Bechet, it was a big hit for Chris Barber in 1959.

In my student days the museum used to run slide shows about railway history, with a musical accompaniment of brass bands and jazz tunes to give a period feel. This tune, in fact this very version of it, was one of those used.

All of which makes me feel all nostalgic when I hear 'Petite Fleur'. I even think I remember if from the day I went for my interview at York - and naturally went to the museum afterwards.

The solo on this recording is played by the wonderfully named Monty Sunshine; according to his Daily Telegraph obituary he was descended from Romanian immigrants who had imaginatively anglicised the family name.

That obituary also casts interesting light on British musical history in describing why Sunshine left Chris Barber:
The break came after a tour to America in 1960: "Chris fell for the Chicago blues in a big way while we were there. He invited Muddy Waters to tour with the band, introduced an electric guitar and so on. It just wasn’t my kind of music, so we came to a parting of the ways."
One does not often think of Chris Barber in connection with Muddy Waters and the blues, but I have a magazine article at home that suggests he has never been given his rightful place in the British popular music pantheon.

That article says his only error was to keep a banjo player in the band for too long, but then The Monks showed that the banjo could have a role in the 1960s too.

1 comment:

Andrew Hickey said...

Oh, Barber was *hugely* influential on the British music business, and especially the blues/R&B part of it -- he was the one who organised the early UK tours of people like Muddy Waters and Big Bill Broonzy, and he had Alexis Korner in his band before Korner went on to be a solo performer.

He also was Lonnie Donegan's employer before he went solo, and Donegan's skiffle act came from his time with Barber's band -- a stripped-down version of the band used to do skiffle songs in the intervals of Barber's shows.

His band were rather good at R&B stuff, actually -- I used to have on video a great show that Doctor John had done with them backing him.