Time to take a back seat?
I have just read the latest issue of Just Jazz Magazine and as usual found it interesting and sad at the same time. In particular the article written by Mike Taylor about Chris Barber. He naturally gives him a glowing career report as one would expect but it was his observations at a recent concert 13th September at Kettering Northamptonshire which saddened me. The concert hall less than 25% full and "Only in the band's introduction to The Saints did anything appear to go amiss. Chris' trombone was only slightly less agile and assertive than it used to be now that he is 84". His concert at Bury St. Edmunds earlier on April 10th was a sell out and he gained rapturous applause. The question to ask is do you think he is going to play until he drops or should he at 84 years plus consider managing only and taking a back (and clearly well deserved) back seat? What do your other contributors think?
Reading the letter from Gerry Travers got me thinking. How long should musicians carry on playing until they call it a day ? If they play occasionally in a pub it probably doesn't matter but when they are a well known name playing bigger venues it can be different. It must be difficult when they are nationally known and have played all their lives to realize their playing is not what it was. I remember hearing Humph in his final years and quite frankly it was tragic to hear him. This was a man who had led some great bands and was very good player and it was upsetting to hear him playing so badly. Jazz has many examples of this reluctance to stop playing. J.C.Higginbotham is an example. I think Barber should adopt the role of M.C. at his concerts and maybe play a couple of numbers. It must be hard to take a back seat but better to be remembered for what you were rather than what you now are.
Well, the verdict is one-all
on Chris Barber at the moment. I don't know when Moe Green last
heard Chris Barber, but I saw the band a few weeks ago in Buxton,
and I thought it was a great night. He had a broken ankle and was
playing from a wheelchair which can't have been easy - I'm sure horn
players will agree it's easier to breathe standing up. I didn't
notice his playing being any different to previous gigs.
(NB this was written before news of Acker's death was announced, and no disrespect was intended)
the debate about Chris Barber and 'sell by dates', it's a sad irony
that we have just learned today of the death of Acker Bilk at the
age of 85. Acker carried on playing almost to the end, and he
certainly didn't need to apologise for that. He was always a much
under-rated musician who was a huge and benevolent influence on
British Traditional Jazz. He was a wonderful player, and a diamond
geezer. Thank you for the music, Acker.
Blimey!! with friends like Gary Travers, who needs enemies? On the strength of a comment made by a.n.other, Chris Barber, who allegedly wasn’t up to expectations on one number, should consider packing in. Well, I can guarantee that Chris is playing a damn-sight better than others who are half his age, and who seem content with churning out the same old stuff, without feeling the urge or inspiration that Chris does in exploring and trying out new things. It’s a good job Mr Travers wasn’t around to comment on Louis’ first recording of “Drop That Sack”: He’d have given Louis the heave-ho straight away! Let’s not have a discussion on who should and who shouldn’t pack it in. It’s bound not to get anywhere and won’t help the music one jot.
Cheers, Jon Critchley
On the subject of how long should you keep playing: my mind was made up for me because of my health and while I have the odd session with a practice pad it doesn't fill the void. I admire anyone with the courage to decide that it is time to quit at the same time I salute those who keep on at whatever level. Good on yer!
I think that John Critchley and Lez Bull have got it absolutely right in their responses to Gary Travers' ill-chosen, and I think offensive, comments. Who on earth does he think he is to make such statements/enquiry? Who does what and when, is absolutely none of his business. He has the right to absent himself from the audience of any performance which he considers to be performed by seniles. The rest of us can continue to enjoy the work of the last of the great "3 Bs" and many others who like the late Graeme Bell went on to "90, Not Out".