Chris Barber Plays the Music of Clarence and Spencer Williams

Chris Barber

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Chris Barber Plays the Music of Clarence and Spencer Williams Review

by Richie Unterberger

At almost any time in the history of recorded music, doing a tribute album of sorts to early jazz composers Clarence Williams and Spencer Williams would be a rather arcane concept. It was especially so in 1955, however, when there was relatively little knowledge of jazz and American popular music history in Britain. Nonetheless, Chris Barber devoted this entire eight-song, 10" LP to numbers that one or the other Williams had a hand in writing or arranging. "Careless Love" was perhaps the most famous one interpreted on this collection, though other songs had been featured on early recordings by Duke Ellington, Louis Armstrong, and Sidney Bechet. Barber and his band offered respectful, albeit rather tame and reserved, revivals of these tunes in a trad jazz style heavily influenced by early Dixieland music. For the most part it was an instrumental set, though Ottilie Patterson offered vocals on "Ugly Child" and "Careless Love." Patterson's singing here is more restrained than it would be on later recordings with Barber's group in the 1950s, and indeed the band as a whole is stiffer here than it would be on its slightly later Pye sessions.

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