A Musical Biography - Born 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 broad, 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, and with many respected jazz artists. A partial list includes: Doc Cheatham; Scott Hamilton; Bob Haggart; Ralph Sutton; Rosemary Clooney; Ruby
Braff; Joe Bushkin; Jay McShann; Dave Frishberg; Benny Carter; 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 was scoring the “St. Louis Blues” for jazz band and symphony orchestra. This arrangement—Dan’s first for full symphony orchestra—was premiered by the Pine Bluff Symphony, and later performed by the Redlands (CA) Symphony. Dan is justly proud that both performances received rave reviews, both from the press and the musicians (and conductors) themselves. Dan’s 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.
Lately, Dan has been playing close to home in southern California. However, he still takes off often to tour with various groups, both around the United States and overseas. He is pleased to be spending more and more time performing with his many European and Scandinavian friends.