Thoughts on Ben, Bean, Bird and Barnes, Thursday 28 December 2023

When Steve sent over the setlist  below,  he said, “What a wonderful gig with which to finish the year and Fleece season. Alan is a brilliant compere as well as a huge talent.”. I can’t imagine  that anyone in the crowd (and what a crowd it was) would disagree. It was being at home with jazz royalty: raconteur Alan Barnes on alto sax, clarinet, and baritone sax; Vasilis Xenopoulos on tenor sax; Jim Watson on piano; Andrew Cleyndert on bass; Clark Tracey on drums. The gig included music composed and performed by Ben Webster, Coleman Hawkins (nicknamed Bean) and Charlie Parker, and two by Alan. There was time for everybody to have extended solos. I have no favourites: it was a spectacularly good evening.

Alan played the audience superbly. There was just enough  information about each tune to satisfy, with anecdotes about the three B’s, and he had us in stitches with his easy pointed humour. I got the strong impression from watching the other four performers that Alan was improvising his chat. We know him well, but his musical speed and invention still surprises us. He made a joke about using the clarinet on “Body and Soul” as a chance to practice, and then used his incredible technique to enhance his feelings for the song and for  Vasilis’ solos. 

Jim’s solo on the first number, “Bean and the Boys”, was truly exciting, and our quiet listening audience was whooping after it. If you are going to play Ben Webster tunes, the warm tenor saxophone tone produced by Vasilis seemed perfect. Andrew if anything has grown as a bassist over the years; solid pulse with constant invention. And Clark; continuous genius at work.  But the key from all four that made it so brilliant was the palpable listening. 

It has been a very good year at Fleece Jazz. Band after band came and played for us, playing wonderfully and showing us the huge range that the genre has. B, B, B, and Barnes was a stunning climax to the year.   But it would be wrong to end this note without thanks to the people who volunteer to make the club work.

So what about next year?  Well, starting off with Kevin Flanagan on sax is a very good beginning. The Martin Hallmark (piano) quartet, with Kevin, Tiago Coimbra on bass and drummer Derek Scurll is on Wednesday 10 January, It will be great to have your company for the gig.

Take care,




  1. Bean and the Boys (Coleman Hawkins) – based on ‘Lover Come Back To Me’
  2. Los Caracoles (Alan Barnes)
  3. Walking the Frog (Ben Webster) BW was jokingly referred to as ‘The Frog’ by fellow musicians owing to his facial appearance and not, as Alan Barnes suggested, because he could catch insects with his tongue!
  4. Body and Soul (Johnny Green/Edward Heyman, Robert Sour, Frank Eyton) – a jazz standard and ballad notably performed by both Ben Webster and Coleman Hawkins.
  5. Billie’s Bounce (Charlie Parker)

*          *          *           *         *        *        *

  1. Spotlite (Coleman Hawkins)
  2. Did You Call Her Today? (Ben Webster) based on ‘Just You, Just Me’
  3. Chelsea Bridge (Duke Ellington) often performed by Ben Webster
  4. Mango (Alan Barnes)
  5. Frog Eyes (Clark Terry) dedicated to Ben Webster
  6. ENCORE: Yardbird Suite (Charlie Parker)

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