Brian Barley

Brian (Holgate) Barley. Saxophonist, clarinetist, composer (b Sarnia, Ont, 10 Dec 1942, d Toronto 8 Jun 1971). He began playing the clarinet at 11 and, inspired by the jazz musician Lee Konitz, took up the saxophone at 13.

Brian Barley

Brian (Holgate) Barley. Saxophonist, clarinetist, composer, b Sarnia, Ont, 10 Dec 1942, d Toronto 8 Jun 1971. He began playing the clarinet at 11 and, inspired by the jazz musician Lee Konitz, took up the saxophone at 13. His clarinet teachers were Avrahm Galper and Ezra Schabas at the University of Toronto and Robert Marcellus at the Cleveland Cons. Barley played clarinet in the NYO 1963-5, and also with the Cleveland Orchestra and the Vancouver SO.

Settling in Montreal in 1966, he turned exclusively to jazz and was a member of groups led by Pierre Leduc, Ron Proby, Herb Spanier, Vic Vogel, and others. About 1968 he formed the adventurous trio Aquarius Rising (Barley, tenor and soprano saxophone and bass clarinet; Claude Ranger, drums; Michel Donato, double-bass, replaced by Daniel Lessard, bass guitar), which made an LP under the title The Brian Barley Trio (1970, RCI 309) and performed in Montreal and Quebec City. The LP (with Lessard) included Barley's compositions Plexidance, Schlucks, Three by Five, and Oneliness.; recordings with Donato and Ranger of other Barley titles remained unissued in 1990. Barley also appeared on LPs from Expo 67 by Leduc and Maynard Ferguson. Shortly before his death (of neurological complications from an automobile accident in 1966) Barley returned to Toronto and was reunited with Ranger and Donato for a brief appearance in March 1971 at the jazz club Meat and Potatoes.

In a review of one of the two Ferguson LPs on which Barley played, Doug Ramsey wrote: 'Barley... would undoubtedly have become a giant of the tenor saxophone... There was enough of Sonny Rollins in Barley to be recognizable, but he was a distinctive stylist whose legacy of recorded work... is rich with humour, a thorough knowledge of jazz tenor history, and awesome musicianship' (Down Beat, 12 Apr 1973).


Further Reading

  • Jazz in Canada

    Gilmore, John. Who's Who of Jazz in Montreal: Ragtime to 1970 (Montreal: Véhicule Press 1989)