Alan Barnes and Art Themen are internationally recognised and phenomenal artists in their own right, but on this first Monday in December when they came to the Berkeley, there was something that wasn’t quite right. This is not just my opinion. This came from other members of the audience as well. Whether it was a musical problem or whether it was simply that Art’s links weren’t as clear as they could be, I do not know. But when we all settled down for the second hour of jazz, the whole effect was different. I thought this was just me, but I was given the same view from other audience members. So shall we say after a bit of a suspect start, the whole evening should be considered a success and any shortcomings that may have happened at the beginning were quickly forgotten. This was underlined by some very positive comments by members of the audience as they left on their way home.
The evening consisted of fairly safe ground which is OK. By that I mean that most of the repertoire at this performance consisted of standards and favourites. There were a few exceptions, if they really are exceptions, like Up Jumped Spring and Funghi Mama which Alan B suggested was something to do with mushrooms, knowing full well that it wasn’t! These are ‘jazz standards’ but not out of the Great American Songbook. What was important from all this was the number of jazz lovers that came through the door and hopefully will come again.
We mustn’t forget the other members of the quartet – Keith Bill was on keyboard and Bill Coleman on bass. They held it all together and included solos when required and all to a very high standard.
Alan of course regaled the audience with his humour which as always does not take over from the music. He always seems to get the repartee spot on. He must have grown up with the motto ‘leave ‘em wanting more.’ And they did at the end. An encore was requested, nay demanded by the audience and the musicians happily complied with that request.