Bootsie Barnes
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Bootsie Barnes


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"Bootsie Barnes Dominates"

Bootsie Barnes Dominates Philly Jazz Scene
Posted: 2003-10-02

By Donald Van Deusen

Any jazz fans seeking some post-July 4th fireworks will get their fill this weekend with the always exciting tenor titan Bootsie Barnes at Ortlieb’s Jazz Haus, 847 N. 3rd St., Philadelphia (215.922-2035). Sets go from 8:45 p.m. to 1:30 a.m. tonight and tomorrow night for a $6 cover.

Backing Bootsie in these sessions will be Duane Eubanks, trumpet; Bim Strasberg, bass; Sid Simmons, piano and Byron Landham, drums. Eubanks is the trumpet playing brother of the NBC Tonight Show guitar playing Kevin Eubanks, another Philadelphia product, and Duane has been making a name for himself at various local clubs. He has also worked with such major stars as Terrell Stafford, Shirley Scott, Illinois Jacquet, James Moody and Jimmy Heath. . The rhythm section is an all star support group with a considerable background and fan following of their own.

But the man with the horn who can set this place on fire with his incendiary horn is the tenor sax giant, Bootsie Barnes. Mr. Barnes started out as a drummer with the Ben Franklin High School Band and worked along the way to alto and tenor going with Art Blakey, Jimmy Heath and Sonny Fortune. He paid his dues in full working local clubs, national gigs, with major and minor groups, developing a tenor sound that has all the depth and excitement of Coleman Hawkins. Like Hawkins, Barnes can go from jam session excitement to tender, heartbreakingly lovely ballads as he has demonstrated in person and on several CDs.

Ortlieb’s is, of course, Philadelphia's longest running jazz club still in existence and is tended over by owner and tenor sax playing Pete Souders who gets as much kick out of the music there as most of the fans do. The club is shaped like a bowling alley and is located in what looks like a decaying factory setting in Northern Liberties so you know it is the music that keeps people coming back for decades.
- All About Jazz

"Boppin’ Round the Center - All About Jazz"

Bootsie Barnes
Boppin’ Round the Center
Harvest Records

This CD featuring Bootsie Barnes and a group assembled for the occasion has one characteristic uncommon in an era of so-called “smooth jazz,” rap singing, and canned music for every occasion from cinematically simulated inner city rumbles to drugs for erectile dysfunction. It really swings! It also “bops around the center!” (I truly don’t know what that means, but I like the phraseology. Forgive me for speculating, with a touch of humor, that it refers either to key changes or some community center where Bootsie hung out as a kid with his pals, James Moody and Bill Cosby.)

Bootsie indicates on the CD cover that this was his first opportunity to conceive the entire recording, including tunes and musicians. (This, in my humble opinion, is the correct way to make recordings- let the musicians create them. Too often, the record companies deprive them of their autonomy.) The tunes are a fine mixture of standards and originals, ballads and up tempo. The musicians are even better. Swana is superb, beautifully matches Barnes’ phrasing and ideas, and is a good deal less reserved than on some of his other recordings. Hodge, McIver, and (Farid) Barron are young guys who’ve already been around quite a bit. I hesitate to call them “young lions,” because there’s no egotism attached to their playing, which is paradoxically both fresh and original, as well as embodying the flavors of many generations of the jazz scene.

Musicians and fans often try to figure out whom Bootsie sounds like! Bob Perkins, who wrote the liner notes, thinks of Dexter Gordon. There are also touches of Charlie Parker, Lester Young, and John Coltrane, as well as subtle hints of Johnny Hodges and Art Pepper. I talked briefly with Bootsie at Chris’ Jazz Café recently, and he told me he played with Sonny Stitt (among many others in the pantheon). You can definitely hear that “classic” bebop phrasing, for example, on Jobim’s “Felicidad,” which seems to undergo various metamorphoses in the group’s capable hands.

The truth is- as Perkins points out- Bootsie sounds like no one but himself. This quiet, gentle man, who could easily inhabit a back porch in the Georgia countryside, is in fact a true artist of the genre. He has mastered what J.J. Johnson called the “jazz syntax,” what the Zen Buddhists call “the way” of jazz. He doesn’t need to emulate other saxophonists because he knows intuitively what the music is about at its “center.”

Though this CD isn’t breaking new territory, it honors tradition and gives it a freshness rarely heard these days. Most of all, it offers thoroughly enjoyable listening, even sort of addictive. That’s because Bootsie has really got the rhythm. You’ll love this album. No doubt about it.

Track Listing: Cosby’s Capers aka Boppin’ Round the Center (Barnes), Young and Foolish (Hague/Horwitt), Minor Mishap (Flanagan), Soul Trane (Dameron), Three Miles Out (Barnes), All the Way (van Heusen/Kahn), You Taught My Heart to Sing (Tyner), Roy’s Idea (Mingus), Felicidad (Jobim/de Morales)

Personnel: Robert “Bootsie” Barnes, Tenor Sax, Farid Barron, Piano, Derrick Hodge, Bass, Craig McIver, Drums, John Swana, Trumpet
- Victor L. Schermer

"July 11 proclaimed "Bootsie Barnes Day" in Camden"

Concert honors Bootsie Barnes

Friday, July 11, 2003

Philadelphia jazz stalwart and Westville resident Bootsie Barnes will be in the spotlight Tuesday as the Sunset Jazz Series presents The Riverstage All Stars' A Tribute to Bootsie Barnes at Wiggins Park on the Camden Waterfront.
Saxophonist Barnes, a Philadelphia native, is a legend in local jazz circles, having played Delaware Valley venues and recording sessions since the 1950s. One of his many musical partners was a young drummer from North Philadelphia named Bill Cosby.

Barnes is scheduled to join the All Stars on the Wiggins stage. Show time is 8 p.m. Admission is free.

- South Jersey News

"Boppin' Round the Center - Jazzreview.Com"

CD Title: Boppin' Round The Center

Year: 2004

Record Label: Harvest Records

Style: Straight-Ahead / Classic

Musicians: Bootsie Barnes (tenor sax); John Swana (trumpet); Farid Barron (piano); Derrick Hodge (bass); Craig McIver (drums)

Review: Bootsie Barnes may be the most unknown tenor sax player beyond the city limits of Philadelphia to perform with some of that city’s best-known jazz names. In a sense, he represents the spirit of Philadelphia jazz, which is quite different from what you would hear in New York City, because of the, yes, brotherhood involved in it. That is, in Philadelphia, jazz is a community event where the major players know each other and play jazz as an unabashed way to get the listeners out of their seats to dance or clap or celebrate. The Philadelphia community of jazz was entirely evident during the memorial concert for another beloved Philadelphia legend who was relatively anonymous to the rest of the jazz world: Gerald Price, one of Joey DeFrancesco’s teachers and occasional accompanist for Sonny Stitt. There were Philadelphians Larry McKenna on saxophone, Darryl Hall on bass, Eddie Green on piano, Pieces of a Dream, Trudy Pitts on B-3 organ, Tyrone Brown on bass, Jim Miller on drums, Keter Betts from Washington D.C. and…Bootsie Barnes on tenor sax. And midway through the concert, the crowd was on its feet, applauding continuously and shouting encouragement and joy in a response that usually only a B-3 organ trio can install. Announcers mentioned that this is how Price wanted to be remembered.
This is the kind of feel that Barnes captures on Boppin’ Round The Center, which is the first project over which he had total control. So now, the liveliness and life infusing Barnes’ performances, and which his live audiences have enjoyed, are available on CD as Barnes applies his own style to nine tunes of his choice. Backed by John Swana on trumpet, Farid Barron on piano, Derrick Hodge on bass and Craig McIver on drums, Barnes makes plain his magnetic appeal which no doubt attracted them to this project, even as they have performed with the likes of Max Roach, Clark Terry, Herbie Hancock, Wynton Marsalis, Kenny Barron and Jon Faddis. Moreover, Barnes draws them into his own irresistible style as well, a fact all the more evident by listening to Barron’s entirely different approach with The Lincoln Center Jazz Orchestra or Swana’s more understated work on his own CD’s.

The first track, “Boppin’ Round The Center,” is notable not only because it sets up the feel-good spirit of the entire recording, but also because it recalls Barnes’ childhood friendship with Bill Cosby who grew up in the same housing project and who danced “The Bop” with others at the recreation center of the Richard Allen Project. After that rousing number, one would think that things would calm down on “Young & Foolish,” the next track, but no so. For Barnes takes the song at a medium-fast clip with the inevitable swing that inspires audiences. Even Antonio Carlos Jobim’s “Felicidad,” normally expected to be played with a light Brazilian-derived sway, is played faster with more swing as Barnes applies his richness of tone to the tune at hand. It becomes evident, if comparisons are necessary to interest prospective listeners in Barnes’ music, that his sound is appealingly aggressive like Dexter Gordon’s but without the staggered phrasing.

With that comparison made, it’s not hard to imagine Barnes’ interpretation of “All The Way” adapted to a hand-clapping type of swing or McCoy Tyner’s “You Taught My Heart To Sing,” played in a more extroverted fashion than singers usually adopt to perform the song.

Bootsie Barnes’ “Boppin’ Round The Center” is the type of CD featuring regional variations in jazz that we hear all too seldom due to their limited distribution. Barnes’ work, well known to Philadelphia residents and to the jazz musicians from elsewhere who perform in that city, deserves the wider recognition that the CD is hoped to receive.

Tracks: Cosby’s Capers (a.k.a. Boppin’ Round The Center), Young & Foolish, Minor Mishap, Soul Trane, Three Miles Out, All The Way, You Taught My Heart To Sing, Ray’s Idea, Felicidad

- Don Williamson


As a Leader

�Been Here All Along� � Bootsie Barnes Quartet � Way After Midnight Records
�Hello� - Bootsie Barnes Quartet � French Riviera Records
�You Leave Me Breathless� � Bootsie Barnes Quartet � French Riviera Records
�Boppin' Round the Center� � Bootsie Barnes Quintet � Harvest Records

As a Sideman

�Looking Up� � Cullen Knight � Reflection Records

�Here to Create Music� � Gamble/Huff � Philadelphia International

�Why Not� � Don Patterson � Muse Records

�The Saxophone Shop� � Odean Pope Saxophone Choir � Soul Note Records

"Epitome" - Odean Pope Saxophone Choir � Soul Note Records

�Comin� Home� � Poppa John DeFrancesco � Muse Records

�All in the Family� - Poppa John & Joey DeFrancesco � Muse Records

�Hip Cake Walk� - Poppa John & Joey DeFrancesco � High Note

�John Swana Quintet� � Criss Cross Records

"Philly Gumbo" - Johns Swana - Criss Cross

"Live at Ortlieb's" - Various Artists - Encounter

"Open the Gates"- Kenny Gates

"To Joe With Love"- Juanita Holliday



�Bootsie� began his musical career at age 6 on piano switching to drums at 10. His grandmother gave him a saxophone at age 19 and he knew he had found his niche. In school, classmates included drummers, Lex Humphries, Bill Cosby, Al �Tootie� Heath; bassist �Spanky� DeBrest, trumpeter Lee Morgan, and a host of Philadelphia giants who went on to help shape the maturing sound of jazz music. Those who had the biggest influence on him were his father, who played trumpet with Bill Doggett�s 16 piece big band, and his cousin Jimmy Hamilton, saxophonist and star clarinetist of Duke Ellington�s band for 26 years.

In the 60�s and early 70�s Bootsie played the renowned �Chitterling Circuit� which included clubs such as South Jersey�s Dreamland, Cotton Club, Laurettas� Hi Hat, Pearl�s Celebrity Room and Over the Top. His highly articulated tenor style also graced Atlantic City�s Club Harlem and The Wonder Garden. A few of the legendary Philly clubs at which he performed include The Aqua Lounge, Just Jazz, The Blue Note, Nite Cap, The Showboat and Pep�s. Worked with Big Bands of Sam Reed, Johnny Lynch's Club Harlem Band, Bennie Lions, Lloyd Price's Big Band (under the direction of the great Kenny Dorham) and the Al Grey Little Big Band.

A significant accomplishment for Bootsie was being elected the Youngest ever Assistant Secretary of Philadelphia�s only Black Local #274 American Federation of Musician�s where he served from 1971-1974. This organization was a forerunner of today's Clef Club of the Performing Arts which was founded by the Late Former President of Local #274, JIMMY ADAMS.

Bootsie toured, performed and recorded with literally all the great organists including Shirley Scott, Jimmy Smith, Don Patterson, Jimmy McGriff, Jack McDuff, Charles Earland, Trudy Pitts, Poppa John and Joey DeFrancesco and others too numerous to name. In the late 1980�s, Bootsie toured with his childhood friend and classmate, Bill Cosby, and made guest appearances on �The Bill Cosby Show,� (playing himself) as well as many other television appearances. As recently as 2001 he toured with Cosby, playing the Playboy Jazz Festival and the Newport Jazz Festival.

Bootsie has toured Europe as well as the United States and Canada, leaving a lasting impression on audiences all over the world. He has headlined venues from New York�s famed Birdland to the very prestigious Le Grand Hotel in Paris. He has won numerous Jazz awards, such as the Marjorie Dockery Volunteer Award from the Urban League Guild of Philadelphia and New York�s Greater Jamaica Development Corporation Award, and is often listed within the Top Ten Jazz Picks.

Today, �Bootsie� Barnes is known as �the man with the �Tenor Touch� because of his dynamic style on the tenor saxophone. His smooth and distinct sound is easily recognizable whether softly caressing a ballad, or swinging hard, during live performances or on CD. JazzTimes magazine sums up his solos thusly: ��plays tenor saxophone with self-assured flair and gorgeous depth�� and ��plays in a classic style reminiscent of Gene Ammons and Hank Mobley��. Bootsie can be heard as a sideman on many, many recordings, (see his discography) he has released one vinyl album and three CD�s as a leader; �Been Here All Along�, �You Leave Me Breathless� �Hello� and "Boppin' Round the Center" ..