Alan Barnes was born in Cheshire in 1959. He studied at Leeds College of Music and became proficient on alto and baritone saxophones and clarinet. Following graduation in 1980, Barnes led several groups, including Pizza Express Modern Jazz Sextet, and recorded with Dave Newton, Tony Coe, Ken Peplowski, and Warren Vache. He dominated the saxophone and clairnet section of the British jazz awards throughout the '90s and performs at major international jazz festivals. Barnes has also spent time teaching.