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Saturday, September 07, 2019

Jeff Barnhart & John Hallam @ Darlington New Orleans Jazz Club - September 7


Jeff Barnhart (piano, vocals); John Hallam (tenor sax, baritone sax, clarinet); Keith Stephen (guitar, banjo); Bruce Rollo (double bass)  
(Review by Russell)

The Mr Men returned one year on from their last get together at Darlington New Orleans Jazz Club. As usual St Augustine's on Larchfield Street catered to a large crowd of dyed-in-the-wool classic jazz era enthusiasts. Today's lunchtime session led by principals Jeff Barnhart and John Hallam would stray into early swing territory without testing the resolve of the faithful. 

The Mr Men - Barnhart, Hallam, Keith Stephen (guitar and banjo) and string bass maestro Bruce Rollo - as they're known picked up from where they left off twelve months ago with Fine and Dandy. It was just that - fine and dandy - with all four contributing succinct calling-card solos topped off by an equally succinct round of fours. And so it went on, four friends playing a selection of favourite numbers - Petite Fleur (Hallam on baritone sax, the quartet moving effortlessly from Latin to swing and back again), You're Driving Me Crazy and a Eubie Blake solo piano medley feature from Barnhart comprising I'm Just Wild About HarryMemories of You and Charleston Rag. In no time the interval was upon us but not before the Mr Men closed out the first set with There Will Never be Another You.

The ebullient American piano virtuoso Barnhart indicated the second set would begin with a dream sequence - Dream Man (Hallam on baritone), You Stepped Out of a Dream (Hallam clarinet) culminating in fours then twos, followed by a dream version of Ain't Misbehavin' (an audience request). What's the betting that if Barnhart met Fats Waller they'd be best pals?!

Our virtuoso six-stringer Mr Keith Stephen switched to his four string banjo for a rollicking Swing That Music - Darlington's faithful loved it! A ballad was called for, we got A Nightingale Sang in Berkeley Square but it wasn't long before Stephen upped the tempo once more when calling Sweet Georgia Brown (in F).   

Ellington's Ring Dem Bells sizzled and in no time it was time to go, with, as Barnhart observed, a song for our times - Between the Devil and the Deep Blue Sea. It had been yet another winning afternoon at Darlington New Orleans Jazz Club. Jeff Barnhart returns in a fortnight (Saturday 21) with Reel 2 of his silent movie-piano accompaniment show. Curtain up at 12:30pm.    
Russell

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