Auckland Town Hall
Review: Graham Reid
Jazz across the spectrum has had a fair showing these past weeks. It started with New York's Lincoln Center Jazz Orchestra, then Nathan Haines at the hip-hop end and last night, before a packed Town Hall, the Chris Barber and Kenny Ball bands essaying ragtime, blues and Dixieland styles.
On their first, long overdue, tour here, trombonist Barber and band were the more impressive. Their catholic choice of material and instrumentation - clarinets, banjo, electric guitar, saxophones and a superb rhythm - allowed for greater diversity and texture.
On their version of Sonny Terry and Brownie McGee's Cornbread blues, John Crocker and John Defferary set up a tough, almost "Texas-tenor" sound, yet Crocker's supple clarinet playing elsewhere (Mood Indigo) and the duet between drummer Colin Miller and bassist Vic Pitt on Big Noise from Winnetka made for a seamless and diverse show.
With informative, witty introductions by Barber - who with shameless humour plugged their album on sale in the foyer - and a set that included exciting treatments of such warhorses as St Louis Blues, South Rampart Street Parade and, yes, Down By The Riverside, the Barber band was a real treat.
The Ball band, however, sounded brash by comparison and the leader's rambling introductions (well, he enjoyed himself) detracted from the otherwise excellent playing.
Between fine ensemble work, drummer Nick Millward delivered one of those physically demanding, technically admirable but ultimately pointless solos on You're Nicked.
Clarinettist Andy Cooper redeemed his sometimes hammy stage manner (there was a lot of hamming) in a superb version of Old Man Moses - full of breathy vocalisation through his instrument.
The Ball band certainly played their popular hits (Midnight in Moscow, Them There Eyes) but after the Barber group's more measured and meaty performance they were bound to suffer.
Auckland Town Hall