Possibly the longest working relationship in the world of jazz was that of Chris Barber and his trumpeter, Pat Halcox. They played together for no fewer than 54 years, and Halcox gave up then only because he had become tired of travelling.
Expecting to have a career in the pharmaceutical industry, Halcox became a trainee research chemist at Glaxo’s laboratories. But by then he had acquired a love of jazz, first playing the trombone and then switching to trumpet, which he played in a number of amateur bands.
In the meantime, Barber had signed up trumpeter Ken Colyer, who played in the original New Orleans style. When Colyer left, Barber asked Halcox to take his place. As a result, Halcox abandoned his traineeship and became a professional musician.
In the mid-1950s, trad jazz, as it was then known, became increasingly popular, and Barber’s albums sold in large numbers. The mix of his trombone, Halcox’s trumpet and Monty Sunshine’s clarinet was a definitive sound of the day.
In 1959, Barber was asked to provide the soundtrack for the cinema adaptation of John Osborne’s groundbreaking play, Look Back in Anger. Richard Burton took the role of the anti-hero – and amateur trumpeter – Jimmy Porter. It became the responsibility of Halcox not only to dub Burton’s trumpet playing, but also to teach him how to perfect a convincing mimicry.
Over the years, Barber cleverly reinvented the style of his band to suit changing public tastes. In 1968, his group became a jazz and blues band. By 2001, four more musicians were added, helping to create the Big Chris Barber Band. At every stage, Halcox adapted his style.
By the time he stepped down, it was reckoned Halcox had played 10,000 concerts with Barber. He once said: “I was a research chemist who decided to play trumpet for a year or two to get it out of my system. Five decades later, I’m still doing it.”
Pat Halcox, who was born on March 18, 1930, died on February 4, aged 82.
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