Bob Barnard

“Australian Bob Barnard is the cleanest and most cliché -free cornet player I have ever heard.” 

Bob Barnard

Bob Barnard

So wrote the reviewer of the Allegheny Jazz Society (Pennsylvania, USA). In an area where the best jazz musicians in the world are regularly heard that is some praise indeed. His style has been compared to Louis Armstrong, Bobby Hackett, and Bunny Berigan among others. But as this review suggests, he has reached a point where he plays in such a pure and natural style that comparisons are perhaps not so appropriate.

To ask him about his style, one finds out that he does not regard himself as a trad or old-fashioned player. He says he plays a style that began with Louis Armstrong. “It’s a classic style, if you like, that comes up through Bunny Berigan, Bobby Hackett, Ruby Braff, and Warren Vaché.” Barnard’s is the perfect mainstream style–a cross between the lyricism and drive that the trumpet can achieve.

Barnard is presented by jazz festivals and clubs all over the world and the response is seldom less than enthusiastic. Reviews are seldom less than rave, from the Melbourne Age to El Mercurio (Santiago, Chile), from the Sydney Morning Herald to the Jazz Journal International (London) or Rapport (Los Angeles).

He made his first recording at the age of sixteen. Bob was already recognized as one of Australia’s most outstanding jazz players before he was twenty years old. Since that time he has become an icon of Australian jazz and has probably made a deeper impression internationally than anyone else in his field. 

He has played successfully on most of the major (and minor) jazz festivals of the world both with his own bands and as featured artist with international all-star lineups. 

Barnard has also recorded with top US jazz artists over the years including Wild Bill Davison, Milt Hinton, Peanuts Hucko, Dan Barrett, Ken Peplowski, Bob Wilber, Warren Vaché, Ralph Sutton, Dick Wellstood, Jim Galloway, Jim Cullum, Bud Freeman and many others. He has appeared with well-known British players such as Humphrey Littleton, Roy Williams, Kenny Ball, Brian Lemon, and Acker Bilk to mention a few. He has been featured artist on many occasions at London’s Ronnie Scott’s, one of the world’s best-known jazz cubs.

At this stage of his career, Bob enjoys the respect and admiration of some of the top jazz players of the world as well as critics and audiences. He also has a legion of fans from the classical and popular music fields. Dr. Clement Semmler, a pioneer of Australian Jazz broadcasting wrote in the Bulletin (August 1990), “Barnard rightly enjoys the reputation as one of the best mainstream trumpet players in the world.” Tasmanian critic Steve Robertson called him “the perfect jazz musician.” In the Denver Post he was referred to as “the great Australian trumpeter Bob Barnard…a rich-toned revelation, swinging like mad…” and praised for “an a capella chorus of improvised perfection.”

Born in Melbourne, Australia in 1933 to a musical family, Bob started trumpet lessons at age 11 and played in various brass bands before joining the family dance band at age 14. Bob’s brother formed his own jazz band in 1948 and Bob made his first recording with that band on his 16th birthday. In 1962 he joined Graem Bell, touring most of Australia as well as New Zealand and New Guinea. After a stint as a studio musician, Bob formed his own band in 1974, which soon became Australia’s top jazz band. This band toured Australia as well as S.E. Asia for the Australian government and on its own toured the U.S. four times, Europe twice, as well as Japan, Hong Kong, and Canada.

With his quartet Bob works gigs in the Sidney area and solo spots around Australia and the world. In 1990 he was honored with an award for his outstanding contribution to the music industry both nationally and internationally and was a winner of the Critics Award at the Gold Coast International Jazz Festival for three consecutive years (1990-1992).

In Australia, he has been honored with awards such as the Order of Australia in 1990, Queen Elizabeth II Jubilee Medal 1977, Advance Australia 1991, Jazz Performer of the Year, 1993 and 1997, by the prestigious Australian Music and Entertainment Awards (the Mo Awards). Other awards of recent years include the Australian Hall of Fame (Gold Coast) 1993, (Montsalvat) 1988, the Australian Jazz Critics Award 1990, 91, 92, (this award cannot be given to one artist more than three times), and the Australian Legends of Jazz Award 1991.

In the Melbourne Age Adrian Jackson asked him how his playing had changed over the years. “It has changed, but very gradually. I’m a bit more sophisticated in my outlook, and in my playing. But it’s still basically me. The way I play is the way I play. I haven’t changed that much, I’m just a little older and wiser. Maybe others are in a better position to judge it.”

Len Barnard (brother) is on a better position than anyone. He says: “The thing with Bob is, he’s a very sensitive player. He can adapt to any situation, and the way he plays will depend on who he’s playing with, and how they’re approaching it. 

“He can still play very ‘hot’ when he wants to. He can still pull it out of the hat when you least expect it. I think he gets taken for granted here, because he doesn’t do stunts or anything, he just plays. But he does it beautifully.”

Read more about Bob at  http://www.acay.com.au/~barnard/index.html

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