Dan Barrett belongs to a new generation of jazz musicians who have more than just a passing interest in the music’s origins and development. Dan and his peers draw their inspiration from the many recordings still available from jazz’s early years; they look to the past masters for musical foundations upon which to build their own personal styles.
Born in Pasadena, California, and raised in Costa Mesa, Barrett started his jazz career in high school when he formed his first group, the Back Bay Jazz Band, which presented the music of King Oliver, Jelly Roll Morton and others to Southern California audiences. During this time, Dan played many local jobs with the great New Orleans musicians Ed “Montudie” Garland, Alton Purnell, Mike DeLay, Joe Darensbourg, Nappy Lamare, and Barney Bigard, hearing about the “old days” first-hand.
Dan and his wife, Laura, moved to New York City in 1983. He spent a busy year playing with and writing for the Widespread Jazz Orchestra, and was a frequent guest at Eddie Condon’s Jazz Club and other Manhattan night-spots.
After hearing Barrett at Eddie Condon’s in New York, Benny Goodman himself called Dan and invited him to join what turned out to be the King of Swing’s last orchestra. Barrett was a featured soloist and even contributed an arrangement to the band’s book before Goodman’s unexpected death in June of 1986. Ten years later, Dan and his family returned to Southern California where Dan continues to establish his reputation through recordings, interviews, and a busy travel schedule. In 1996 he took part in a heavily documented European tour by Woody Allen’s Jazz Band and is featured onscreen in the award-winning movie made about that tour, Wild Man Blues. In 1999 he was nominated for the Second Annual Bell Atlantic Jazz Award as “Trombonist of the Year.” Dan has now drawn upon his many years of experience to put together a one-of-a-kind unit, Blue Swing.
In addition to his free-lance activities, Dan continues to pursue his interest in arranging and orchestration. His writing can be heard on many Arbors Records CDs. I Saw Stars, featuring vocalist Rebecca Kilgore, and Look What I Found, vocalist Daryl Sherman’s new release, prominently display Barrett’s skills as an arranger. An earlier recording (for another label), arranged by Barrett and featuring the great Bobby Short, garnered a Grammy nomination.
Still another CD occasioned this comment about Barrett’s playing from John S. Wilson (The New York Times): “(He) is one of the delights here, a melodist, a colorist who knows how to use a plunger mute with taste and, in total, a player Duke Ellington would have loved.”