George Barnes Quartet: Don (2003)
One cannot help experiencing the warmth and friendliness of this recording. Session guitarist George Barnes could not seem more real than when he bantered with the crowd at the Concord, California's Willows Theater in the Summer of 1977. Don’t Get Around Much Any More was to be Mr. Barnes’ last recording, as he died from a heart attack a mere two weeks later. Warmth and friendliness, I suspect that this is what Acoustic Disc founder David Grisman strove for when envisioning the mission statement for his label on which he and Jerry Garcia recorded so many fine wooden music offerings.
Barnes leads a two guitar front quartet through the heart of the American Canon from the perspective of his patently Midwestern roots. His musical approach is more rural than urban, recalling an interesting combination of Western swing and the French Hot Club. Mr. Barnes navigates his quartet through 15 selections, only one in excess of five minutes, all closely arranged and performed. There is nothing in this recital that smacks of a jam session. These songs are all presented in a swinging, tight-as-a-drum manner.
Mr. Barnes and company turn in no less than three fine Gershwin readings, the opening "Fascinatin’ Rhythm," "Cheerful Little Earful," and "I Can’t Get Started With You." Equally adept at chordal and single note solos, Barnes slides his way through everywhere he turns his attention. Most delightful are the two novelty pieces, "Sweet Georgia Brown " and "The Theme to the Flintstones." The former sports a superbly constructed bass solo by Dean Reilly, back by Barnes and second guitarist's Duncan James tasteful comping.
To steal a metaphor from the leader’s daughter in the liner notes, George Barnes was indeed the Fred Astaire of the guitar. He played like the great Astaire danced, effortlessly, with great heart and sense of humor and always a wink in his eye, letting the listener know not to take him or herself too seriously. Through his music, George Barnes lets the listener know that everything will be all right.
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Track Listing: Fascinatin
Personnel: George Barnes