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Danny Barker/Blu Lu Barker



Danny BarkerDuring the 1930’s, New Orleans’ Danny Barker played guitar and banjo behind some of the biggest names in jazz – Teddy Wilson, Lionel Hampton, Louis Armstrong, and Cab Calloway, to name a few. At age 80, he faced the microphone alone, singing standards such as “Bill Bailey”, “Nobody Knows You When You’re Down and Out”, and “When You’re Smiling” while accompanying himself with warm, straight-ahead comping on acoustic guitar. Danny’s relaxed approach, intriguing chord vocabulary, and anything-goes attitude towards lyrics (he works his “reefer-head friends” and 16 chorus girls from the Apollo in “St James Infirmary”) leaves his personal stamp on every song. And isn’t that, after all, what the essence of jazz is all about?

JO, Guitar Player

Reflections on Danny Barker from Wynton Marsalis – Jazztimes, 1989

“I played in his band when I was eight. The Fairview Baptist Church Marching Band. He used to get all the young guys. We’d rehearse in this lot in New Orleans, across the street from St. Mark’s Community Center in the eighth ward. When I was playing with him I was totally not serious! I didn’t even like to carry my horn for a two hour parade, marching in the street. I was eight years old and dumb. He used to inspire us to practice, teach us songs, and take time with the whole band. For me to have him on this record, to have him check the music out, and for him to actually enjoy it – that was a great thing for me personally.” Danny Barker played banjo on Wynton Marsalis’ album, “The Majesty of the Blues” at 81 years old.

“As I grew older, I began to realize how significant he is, and how great a man he is. When I was a young man, I just didn’t know. Even in my high school years I would still see him and rap to him. Danny Barker could always tell you stories about the older musicians. But I didn’t realize the value of a man with that type of knowledge. I was all into being young and dumb. He’s a man who’s been dedicated to something for 60 years, and was great at it 60 years ago. Now the richness of his experience and his love for the music comes through his playing. I can’t even describe how it feels to be able to recognize how great somebody like him is.”

Danny and Blu Lu BarkerDanny and Blu Lu Barker

Danny and Blu Lu Barker’s last performance together at the New Orleans Jazz Fest in 1989 is captured on the CD “Live at the New Orleans Jazz Fest”. it’s more than a cliché to say that the ten tunes recorded that day are a moment caught in time.

Danny was 80, Miss Lu (as members of Danny’s band, the Jazz Hounds affectionately called her) was 75. The songs span a sweep of vintage American music.

They took the stage to a contagion of applause, a dapper gent with wry wit and the stout blues diva long married to her teenage sweetheart.

Born in the downtown Creole wards, they grew up amidst the flowering of jazz, a sound that reflected the town in endless ways, from moody reflections on death in “St James Infirmary” (which Danny massages in satirical vein on this CD), to the joystream beat of his uncle Paul Barbarin’s classic, “Bourbon Street Parade”.

At an age when many entertainers begin to fade Danny and Lu remade themselves in the 1970’s, becoming symbols of traditional jazz to an emergent generation of fans who knew little of the music that came out of the streets and churches, the honky tonks and parade trails of New Orleans at the turn of the century. To hear them again is a pleasure renewed.