Jazz supremo comes to Ipswich

FOR most of his life Chris Barber has loved jazz and helped make famous many names in the music world. Today, as he prepares to perform once again in Ipswich, JAMES MARSTON speaks to a man with more than 50 years' experience in entertaining.

FOR most of his life Chris Barber has loved jazz and helped make famous many names in the music world. Today, as he prepares to perform once again in Ipswich, JAMES MARSTON speaks to a man with more than 50 years' experience in entertaining.

CHRIS Barber fell in love with jazz many years ago, and that passion is immediately obvious.

He took part in the extraordinary boom in the popularity of traditional Jazz in Britain and across Europe, and is the man responsible for bringing to the shores and concert halls of Britain such great artistes as Muddy Waters, Sister Rosetta Tharpe, Sonny Boy Williamson, Sonny Terry & Brownie McGhee, Champion Jack Dupree, Louis Jordan, Howlin' Wolf and Jimmy Witherspoon.

As co-founder of the famous Marquee Club in London and the Richmond Jazz and Blues Festival - later known as the Reading Festival - Chris and his partner Harold Pendleton also played a large part in starting and furthering the careers of The Rolling Stones, The Who, Jimi Hendrix, The Yardbirds, Led Zeppelin, Alexis Korner and John Mayall.

His Ipswich show, which includes his 1959 hit Petite Fleur and music by Duke Ellington, will include music from the last 50 years of his career. He said: “People ask me if I'll ever stop or why don't I retire but I tell them it's too late to stop. I'm 77 now and Can't Stop Now is the title of our new album.”

His roots in jazz began at school. He said: “I was at a boarding school in Royston in World War Two. I remember writing to my father and asking for jazz music. I didn't write many letters.

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“He was an economist and into classical music but he found a magazine and found out where to get some jazz and he and got me some music. That's where it began and it's been a lifelong passion.”

He said: “We first played in Ipswich back in 1955 but this is the first time at the Corn Exchange so it is a new venue for us. It will be a bit of a trip down memory lane.

“I remember we played the Gaumont back in 1956 or 1957. I just love the music. We are in our 54th year of touring and I love brining the music to the audiences. It's much more pleasant to play an audience of 400 to 800 than a large crowd. It's much more intimate.”

The Big Chris Barber Band will perform at Ipswich Corn Exchange on Novemeber 29. For tickets call 01473 433100.

Are you a fan of Chris Barber? Write to Your Letters, Evening Star, 30 Lower Brook Street, Ipswich, IP4 1AN or send an e-mail to eveningstarletters@eveningstar.co.uk

Q: Do you have an unfulfilled ambition?

A: “When you've been going as long as I have there are not many ambitions left. We've played the Hollywood Bowl and New Orleans it's hard to find new things to look forward to. My ambition is simple really, to share our music with more people.”

Q: What's the highlight of your career?

A: “We played in 1962 at President Kennedy's first and only Washington Jazz Festival. We had a great night there.”

Q: What's your most embarassing moment?

A: “People often say to me “I thought you were dead”. It first happened back in 1968.”

Q: Tell us something about yourself which our readers won't know?

A: “My grandfather was the vicar of Colne Engaine near Colchester and I have two children both live in Florida.”

Q: What's your diva demand in the dressing room?

A: A decent cup of English tea with proper milk. You can't always get it abroad so you have to make a bit of a fuss. I also like choc ices, I grew up in the war and we didn't have any then.”

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