An Alan Barnes Quartet

Saxophonist and clarinet player Alan Barnes attended Southampton Jazz Club Tuesday, 19 November, and brought with him a stellar supporting cast in David Newton on piano, Andrew Cleyndert on bass and on drums Sebastiaan de Krom. I have been fortunate to hear all these musicians play live before but never in this particular line-up.

The thing with Alan Barnes is that you always know that he will play great jazz; you always know that he will bring with him players who are superb at what they do in their own right; and you always know that Alan will be just as entertaining between the tunes.

The first set began with the Leroy Anderson tune Serenata played at a mid tempo with Alan Barnes on Alto. This swinging number set the mood for the evening and allowed each of the players to stretch out a little and introduce themselves to the audience.

“An after hours finger snapper” in the Johnny Hodges number First Klass was an apt description of the next tune, and the mood it created, with Alan Barnes playing baritone sax and a terrific bass solo was heard from Andrew Cleyndert, which was very much appreciated by the large audience in the Jane Austin Suite at The Dolphin Hotel, Southampton. The next tune, Three Little Words, took us back to the 1930s. This was a wonderful up-tempo piece and featured a drum solo from Sebastiaan de Krom – I always enjoy watching Sebastiaan play, so economical in his playing and yet so expressive.

David Newton got to open Detour Ahead and this was quite simply a beautiful tune played beautifully with some very subtle brushwork from Sebastiaan de Krom. A Felicidade, which translates from Portuguese as happiness, is an Antonio Carlos Jobim tune that can be found on Alan’s latest album release +Eleven (a great album celebrating Alan’s sixtieth birthday with some exceptional arrangements by trombonist Mark Nightingale). This number was light, lively and fun – and thoroughly enjoyable.

The first set galloped towards the break with a first class rendition of Charlie Parker’s Steeplechase – it is when well written tunes like this are played as well as this one was I get reminded of why I fell for jazz music in the first place.

Time After Time was the easy going swinging number that got the second set underway after the excitement of the three prize raffle (they normally have just two prizes at Southampton – and it’s not yet Christmas). Alan made a point of explaining, for anyone who might be taking notes, that the tune had been played in the key of D flat at a semitone higher than normal: I have no idea if that is true or if Alan was being humerous, either way I have recorded the statement accurately – I also detected the phrases of Blue Moon that were slipped in to the tune.

If Ever I Would Leave You, from the musical Camelot gave the opportunity to hear another wonderful bass solo from Andrew Cleyndert. It also included another Sebastiaan de Krom drum solo with some sublime high hat and cymbal playing. This was followed with Billy Strayhorn’s Chelsea Bridge: a mellow, late night kind of tune with Alan Barnes once again playing baritone sax – such a beautiful tone!

A very lyrical jazz waltz followed Chelsea Bridge before Sidney Bechet’s Blues in Thirds filled the air. Blues in Thirds began with the great pairing of David Newton on piano and Alan Barnes on clarinet. The clarinet has such a warm tone and is one of my favourite of the jazz instruments, particularly when played in the higher register under such control as it was by Alan Barnes. The blues aspect of this number really came through on the bass playing of Andrew Cleyndert. Sadly, all good things must come to an end and this evenings gig was brought to a close with Chilli Pepper – another very good Alan Barnes CD on which to hear this Art Pepper tune is The Art Trip on Outside In Records.

I have heard Alan Barnes play in many group setting from duets with David Newton to guesting with a big band as he did at Southampton a couple of years ago andnever disappoints. Alan is a very gifted player and raconteur who always treats his audience with respect. Just as importantly, he also has a very good contacts book filled with the details of some of this country’s finest jazz musicians who always look happy to be playing alongside him.

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