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Profile: Dan Barrett

Dan Barrett PhotoBorn in Pasadena, California, and raised in nearby Costa Mesa, Dan Barrett began playing the trombone at the age of eleven, and the cornet shortly thereafter. In high school he formed his first group, the Back Bay Jazz Band. This sextet presented the music of King Oliver, Jelly Roll Morton and other early jazz greats 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.

In 1977, Dan made the first of many trips to Europe, to appear at the Breda International Jazz Festival in Holland. Several passports later, he has become a welcome guest at dozens of jazz festivals abroad, and has formed close friendships with many musicians overseas.

Dan and his wife, Laura, moved to New York City in 1983. He spent a busy couple of years touring with and writing for the Widespread Jazz Orchestra, and later was a frequent guest at Eddie Condon’s jazz club and other Manhattan night-spots. It was at Eddie Condon’s that Benny Goodman first heard Dan play, and shortly thereafter asked him to join what would be the King of Swing’s last orchestra. While in New York, Dan also co-led the popular Howard Alden - Dan Barrett Quintet (the ABQ).Dan has played both valve and slide trombones for many motion pictures, including The Cotton Club and Brighton Beach Memoirs, as well as Woody Allen’s Mighty Aphrodite, Everyone Says I Love You, and Bullets Over Broadway. If you look fast, you can see Dan on the screen in the latter film. (He’s featured a bit more in the recent movie, Wild Man Blues. This award-winning film documents a three-week tour of Europe by Woody Allen’s New Orleans Jazz Band). Dan has performed four times at Carnegie Hall: with Woody Herman (and the New York Pops Orchestra), Joe Bushkin, and in two tributes to Louis Armstrong, respectively. Additionally, he has composed and arranged the theme music for the American Playhouse television production of Rocket to the Moon, and Christopher Munch's new motion picture starring Jacqueline Bisset, The Sleepy Time Gal. Dan still finds the time to appear at numerous jazz parties and festivals throughout the United States, Canada, Europe, the United Kingdom, Australia, and Japan.

Barrett has recorded under his own name (Blue Swing and Melody In Swing are his latest CDs for Arbors Records), and with many respected jazz artists. A partial list includes Doc Cheatham, Scott Hamilton, Bob Haggart, Rosemary Clooney, Ruby Braff, Joe Bushkin, Jay McShann, Buck Clayton and Benny Goodman! Dan is especially proud of his associations with Messrs. Clayton and Goodman, for each of whom he played lead trombone and was a featured soloist.
In addition to his free-lance activities, Dan continues to pursue his interest in arranging and orchestration. One of his more ambitious projects of late was scoring the St. Louis Blues for jazz band and symphony orchestra. His writing can be heard on many Arbors Records CDs, including I Saw Stars, Moon Song, and Blue Swing, all featuring vocalist Rebecca Kilgore, and Look What I Found, with vocalist Daryl Sherman. 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 from John S. Wilson (erstwhile jazz reviewer for 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."

In 1996, Dan and his family returned to Southern California. He has since been nominated for the 1999 Bell Atlantic Jazz Award for "Trombonist of the Year," and came in on top in a 1999 poll as the Mississippi Rag readership’s "favorite living trombonist!" He is mentioned with high praise in the new Biographical Encyclopedia of Jazz (by Ira Gitler and the late Leonard Feather), as well as the Guinness Who’s-Who of Jazz.

Dan currently tours the majority of the time with BED, an ensemble consisting of long-time friends and musical cohorts Rebecca “Becky” Kilgore, Eddie Erickson and Joel Forbes. It is BED that is featured on the soundtrack of the aforementioned film, The Sleepy Time Gal. BED continues to gain friends and fans at its numerous appearances at festivals and jazz parties both in the USA and abroad. In June of 2006, BED traveled to Tel Aviv, to perform at the Caesarea Jazz Festival.

The all-star assemblage Blue Swing combines the BED quartet with four other all-star performers. Blue Swing has been getting together for gigs (and a recording) for a number of years, and features some of the finest “two-way” players (those who excel at ensemble and solo work) around the scene these days. Dan likes to remind prospective festival and jazz party producers--and even folks who would like to have a fun and exciting jazz group for their private party or event--that both BED and Blue Swing are “only a phone call away.”

Click below to learn more about Dan's compositions and movie work.

More about Dan's Compositions