Robert "Bootsie" Barnes is a perfect example of a jazzman who enjoys local hero status in his home town but is little known elsewhere. Since the '50s, the big-toned, hard-blowing tenor saxman (a cousin of the late Duke Ellington clarinetist Jimmy Hamilton) has been famous in Philadelphia jazz circles, but he isn't well known outside of Philly. Barnes grew up in West Philly, and in the '50s, he became quite visible on the Philly jazz scene, where he played alongside Lee Morgan, Philly Joe Jones, Al "Tootie" Heath, Lex Humphries, Spanky DeBreast and many others. Another Philadelphian he often played with was his friend Bill Cosby, who started out as a jazz drummer before deciding that acting, not jazz, was his calling. Barnes was employed by quite a few organists in the '50s and '60s, including Jimmy Smith, Jack McDuff, Jimmy McGriff, Shirley Scott and Don Patterson. In the '70s, he toured briefly with Sonny Stitt, and the '80s and '90s found him continuing to play regularly around Philly, where he played with such locals as Scott, Mickey Roker, organist "Papa John" DeFrancesco (Joey DeFrancesco's father), trumpeter John Swana and singer Lou Lanza. Barnes finally enjoyed some national exposure when he was prominently featured on DeFrancesco's 1994 Muse date, Comin' Home, and he got a long overdue chance to record as a leader when the small, Philly based French Riviera label recorded 1995's You Leave Me Breathless (Barnes' first album as a leader) and 1998's Hello! French Riviera chose to emphasize Barnes' more lyrical side, and neither of those ballad oriented albums contained many examples of the type of fast, aggressive playing that had been a big part of his live performances.
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