WHEN he steps onto stage at Eastleigh he will be celebrating his 65th anniversary as a bandleader.
Trombonist Chris Barber is the sole survivor of a legendary trio of British jazz musicians called the Three Bs – Barber, Bilk and Ball.
King of the clarinet Acker Bilk passed away a month ago and Kenny Ball died in March last year.
Barber was the architect of the ’60s blues-rock explosion which gave birth to rock giants like The Rolling Stones and The Beatles.
He was at the forefront of the trad boom in the early ’50s and it was his music that inspired The Stones and The Fab Four.
The 84-year-old musician, who is still going strong on the jazz circuit across the UK and Europe, returns to The Concorde, Eastleigh, on December 3 to headline an international jazz night with The Big Chris Barber Band.
With his 10-piece band he will be playing a wide selection of his favourite music from his roots in New Orleans style to soulful blues.
Concorde boss Cole Mathieson says: “He has been appearing at the club since the Bassett days and I guess at least once a year since then.”
“Chris Barber really always surprises me. He was one of the first of the jazz revival bands to become a national name in the ’50s and is still pulling in audiences in UK and particularly on the Continent.
“He has constantly changed the style of his band but at the same time retained much of the revival sound and enthusiasm.”
One of the most successful jazz musicians of all time, Chris has made 260 albums and played at more than 1,500 concerts with more than 50 former band members.
His band was the launching pad for the King of Skiffle, the late Lonnie Donegan. His appearances with Barber triggered the skiffle craze of the mid-’50s and he had his first transatlantic hit with Rock Island Line.
Chris formed his first Barber New Orleans band in 1949 when he was 19. In 1953, along with Monty Sunshine and Lonnie Donegan, he joined forces with Ken Colyer.
Then, when Pat Halcox replaced Colyer in 1954, Ken Colyer’s Jazzmen became Chris Barber’s Jazz Band and has been one of Europe’s most successful traditional jazz bands ever since.
More than 60 years on, he still enjoys hitting the road with his band: “I do not get fed up with touring because it is the playing that makes it worth it,” he says. “I am lucky to have the constitution that is ideal for a touring jazz musician.”
He does not subscribe to any fitness regime, adding: “I do not go on walks. If God had had meant us to walk he would not have invented the motor car.”
Music was not a career path that he originally intended to follow.
He recalled: “I was training to become an actuary for an insurance company. But I failed part one of the Institute of Actuary exams twice.”
His bosses did not think the young Barber was studying much and he agreed.
They told him: “You’d better go and play your trombone instead.”
Luckily he took their advice or the Rolling Stones and Beatles might have been lost to the rock and blues world.