Until his retirement from music in August 2019, Chris Barber OBE had led a band for more years than the mere half-century achieved by his hero Duke Ellington.
He was a musical pioneer on a scale that defies belief when one considers the obstacles that he encountered on his mission. Without a doubt, he transformed the music scene in the UK and unlocked the door for a new generation of musical adventurers who in turn, continue to inspire on a global scale.
As a result of a fracture received from a fall at home, he had been hospitalized from the start of 2019 but was making good progress in his physical recovery. However, dementia had taken a hold during this unfamiliar period of incapacity, and although he was released back home, the condition accelerated at such a pace that he soon had to be moved into a care home. In the wake of the 2020 pandemic, the government ruling on visits to these establishments led to prolonged periods of isolation as his dementia worsened, until on 2nd March 2021 he died peacefully in his sleep.
We will never see his like again.
Before Chris had the accident, he and I had planned the re-issue of his MEMORIES OF MY TRIP album, which duly surfaced late in 2019 to mark his official retirement from music and it was during my research on that project that I started work with Kate Barber preparing for the set which you now hold in your hand.
Kate was keen for me to use as many photographs and images as possible from their private collection as it also included a marvellous selection from his motor racing days, and she suggested that it would be a great opportunity to include them here accompanied by the recollections of one of his racing team – Dave Brodie.
The release date was set to June 2021 by which time we were hopeful that the (Chris and Kate endorsed) Big Chris Barber Band would be regularly performing again, albeit without him while he was still in care. The promotion was due to start in April 2021 but upon news of his passing, I was prepared to defer publication until a more appropriate time. However, after careful discussion with Kate, we agreed to continue on schedule as a tribute to the great man.
Alyn Shipton, who had already published Chris’ biography "Jazz Me Blues" kindly offered to write a condensed version of the Barber story and compile a suitably representative selection of recordings for this edition. From the outset of his career, Chris had recorded relentlessly creating a rich mosaic from which Alyn was masterfully able to distil six hours of joyful music to fully illustrate why I named this anthology A TRAILBLAZER'S LEGACY.
A TRAILBLAZER'S LEGACY will be released June 11th, and is only available in a limited edition of 1,000 physical copies.