Chris Barber with Rod Mason’s Hot Five • Jazz Holiday


Chris Barber with Rod Mason's Hot Five • Jazz HolidayRod Mason (1940-2017) may not be a household name in the U.S. but he was one of the top traditional jazz cornets in England for decades. He worked with Cy Laurie, Monty Sunshine, Acker Bilk, and the Dutch Swing College Band. In 1985 he founded his Hot Five group, recording a series of rewarding albums for Timeless.

I recently discovered his LP Jazz Holiday and have been playing it regularly ever since. Mason’s Hot Five (with Helm Renz on clarinet and occasionally alto, trombonist Klaus Dau, pianist Ansgar Bergmann and banjoist Udo Jagers) is joined by the great British trombonist-bandleader Chris Barber who replaces Dau on ten of the 13 selections.

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Mason is in remarkable form throughout the 1985 recordings, sounding very close to Louis Armstrong at times yet not copying Armstrong’s solos except during parts of “West End Blues” and “Cornet Chop Suey.” A powerful player who was quite inventive within 1920s jazz, he always came up with his own ideas. On this project, Mason clearly inspired Barber who is in top form on such numbers as “Ory’s Creole Trombone,” “Papa Dip,” “Trombone Cholly” and his trio showcase with piano and banjo on “Georgia On My Mind.” In addition, Mason sings a few numbers in different voices including on “Big at Ma And Skinny Pa” where he does one of the closest imitations imaginable of Louis Armstrong.

Renz, who is not overly featured, hints strongly at Johnny Dodds on clarinet when he pops up while Bergmann and Jagers, who have their spots, keep the rhythm steady and swinging. But it is for Rod Mason that Jazz Holiday is heartily recommended. His ensemble playing on “Ory’s Creole Trombone” and “Muskrat Ramble” is well worth several listens. Jazz Holiday is an overlooked gem.

Chris Barber with Rod Mason’s Hot Five • Jazz Holiday
Timeless TTD 524

UpBeat Records

Since 1975 Scott Yanow has been a regular reviewer of albums in many jazz styles. He has written for many jazz and arts magazines, including JazzTimes, Jazziz, Down Beat, Cadence, CODA, and the Los Angeles Jazz Scene, and was the jazz editor for Record Review. He has written an in-depth biography on Dizzy Gillespie for He has authored 11 books on jazz, over 900 liner notes for CDs and over 20,000 reviews of jazz recordings.

Yanow was a contributor to and co-editor of the third edition of the All Music Guide to Jazz. He continues to write for Downbeat, Jazziz, the Los Angeles Jazz Scene, the Jazz Rag, the New York City Jazz Record and other publications.

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