Tribute has been paid by some of the biggest names in music following the death of “jazz great” Chris Barber at the age of 90.
A significant figure in the 40s, 50s and 60s UK music scene, the bandleader and trombonist has been lauded for helping popularise “washboard skiffle” music in the British Isles – a movement that inspired The Beatles and The Rolling Stones.
He launched his career with a New Orleans-style jazz band alongside guitarist Alexis Korner in 1950, quitting a job as an actuary to become a professional musician.
As a bandleader, Barber focussed on Duke Ellington-inspired hot jazz and blues, but would also infuse his music with the early rock n roll and RnB sounds being exported from America at the time.
He collaborated throughout his career with many of music’s biggest names, such as Muddy Waters, Van Morrison and Mark Knopfler of Dire Straits.
He was born in Welwyn Garden City, Hertfordshire in 1930 where at a young age he developed an interest in jazz music.
Following the end of the Second World War, Barber moved to London where he began avidly attending the city’s bars and clubs to listen to jazz groups.
In 1959 he and clarinettist Monty Sunshine had chart success in both the UK and US with their version of Sidney Bechet’s ballad Petite Fleur.
It sold more than one million copies in the UK.
Barber also toured and recorded with many well-known American musician, including the New Orleans clarinettist Edmond Hall and the jump-music founder Louis Jordan.
Steve Van Zandt, of Bruce Springsteen’s E-Street Ban, described Barber as “the Godfather of British Rock”, while songwriter Billy Bragg called him a “giant of jazz”.
Taking to Twitter, lyricist Sir Tim Rice said Barber had been a “formidable influence on British post-war music and beyond”.
Barber was awarded an OBE in 1991 for services to music, while in June 2006 he received an honorary doctorate from Durham University.
He was married four times. His second marriage, to Ottilie Patterson, lasted from 1959 until their divorce in 1983.
A father of two children, the jazz musician had been suffering from dementia in the period before his death.