Thoughts on the Alan Barnes Sextet, 22 December 2021

Just listing the band members shows how good a gig this was. Alan’s sextet gave us Ellington and Strayhorn and a joyous evening. I will list them in the classical order, but this was a band of equals playing at the top level.

Alan Barnes played alto and clarinet, and was raconteur superbe.

Karen Sharp played tenor, baritone and clarinet, and did some of the arranging.

Robert Fowler played tenor and clarinet, and did some of the arranging.

David Newton, our honorary Presidentè, commanded the piano.

Simon Thorpe played double bass with his usual intensity.

Clark Tracey played drums; he brought “Stomp, Look and Listen” (Ellington) to the party.

I am sure you will agree that is a very tasty group. An excellent audience certainly did. They got a wonderful evening of jazz. Everything was played with verve and energy, and synergism between the players, very close, I think to the intention of the composers. I will only mention one tune which was a bit different in approach.

“The Mooche”, by Duke Ellington and Irving Mills was played as a story. At the time, a mooche was the local drug dealer. All three played the first 16 bars of the head on clarinets; the harmonies and dissonances were disturbing. Karen switched to tenor for the rest of the head, which was in an almost mellow mood. Having seen it happen to a musician in my youth,  I could not get out of my mind the scream of need, followed by the calmness after injecting.  This was amazing story telling and these words do not do it justice.

We had great solos from everyone. We had lovely ballads, like Ellington’s “In a Sentimental Mood” with beautiful horn choruses. We had smashing up tempo numbers like his “Cottontail”, getting the audience jumping in the first few bars.

I will remember some of this gig for a long time. That doesn’t stop me looking forward to our new season, which we all hope will be allowed to be. Sara Dowling (The Jazz of Judy Garland) has a terrific voroice and phrasing. That will be on January 12th with Chris Ingham on piano, Dario De Lecce on bass, and drummer Geoge Double. See you there.

Take care,