Barry Wratten and the Crescent City Serenaders with Margret RoadKnight

YESTERDAY (Tuesday 27 August) Iwas listening to Geoff Tobin on Radio 3INR FM’s jazz program Mainly Trad as I do most Tuesdays.   This week Geoff had as his guest outstanding clarinetist Barry Wratten.  Barry has been a devotee and interpreter of New Orleans style music for almost all of his 50 years in the business, and his reminiscences about the Crescent City – where he lived for many years -and the influences of its music and musicians on the growth of jazz around the world were fascinating.

This program reminded me of a fabulous concert which Barry and his Crescent City Serenaders, and featuring renowned singer Margret RoadKnight, presented at the Surrey Music Cafe in November 2012. The concert had special significance as it marked Margret’s 50 years as a professional performer.

Margret is not a singer who can be pigeon-holed.

Quoting from her website: She has sung blues, jazz, gospel, folk, comedy, and social commentary songs in concert halls and cathedrals, clubs and campuses, from Broome to Hobart, Beijing to Memphis, Paris to Auckland, Edinburgh to Tel Aviv, New York to Seoul, Amsterdam to Dublin, New Orleans to London, Vancouver to Nuku’alofa.
But whatever she sings she does it with warmth, charm, passion, wit where appropriate, and a stunning virtuosity.

Filmmaker Nigel Buesst was in the audience on that November evening and recorded the whole program. I’ve chosen 2 tracks from the two dozen he filmed to give you a feel of the whole, but I could just as easily chosen 22 others, given the richness of the choice.  

The lineup in itself was sensational:  Barry as leader on clarinet, Michael McQuaid on trumpet and soprano sax, Chris Ludowyk on trombone, John Scurry on guitar and banjo, David Allardice on piano, Andy Ross on double bass, and Lynn Wallis on drums!

My first choice is a Sidney Bechet song which is not often played, BECHET’S FANTASY. It has a beautiful pairing of Barry Wratten on clarinet and Mike McQuaid on soprano saxophone.

For a change of pace, I’ve chosen CREOLE JAZZ. As Barry points out, New Orleans music has many Caribbean influences. Lynn Wallis’s mastery of its tricky rhythms demonstrates why he is regarded as one of Australia’s finest jazz drummers. I’m sorry that the track stops rather abruptly, but that’s how it was.

As I said earlier, this is only a taste. Another chance to hear Barry and his band, this time The New Orleans Pelicans, will be at the Wangaratta Jazz Festival, 1 – 4 November. I think they will be playing on the 1st and 2nd of November, but check the program to be sure.

In the lineup for that occasion will be outstanding young trombone player, Shannon Barnett. Shannon is currently based in New York and has recently had great success playing in Copenhagen with a fantastic Oz band, Ragstretch, led by Chris Tanner (The trumpeter is actually Swedish!). She will be in Australia towards the end of the year, so look out for any gigs she may have while here. Lars Ole Christiansen filmed Ragstretch playing PANAMA at the Copenhagen Jazz Festival 2013. (see below) You’ll find other tracks from the same Festival uploaded on YouTube.

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