In the mid-1960s, England had its share of flutists playing in orchestras from the local, homegrown to top of the food chain of classical music. But under the banner of rock music, two flutists seemed to be one too many. So when Martin Barre auditioned for Jethro Tull, lead by the other flutist, Ian Anderson, he brought out his guitar. Barre, it turns out, had some chops for a lead guitarist. So when Tony Iommi parted ways with Tull after a short association, Barre stepped in.
He played guitar for Jethro Tull for over 43 years, and his playing accounted for much of their success. Album sales have surpassed 60 million units. Anderson and his latest version of Jethro Tull continue to play 50 years after he founded the band. As for the other flutist, he shreds his guitar solos with his own band, currently on tour playing all Tull music, a gig that might have Barre dust off his flute. The band stops at the Levoy Theatre in Millville on October 11 with a Brief History of Jethro Tull show.
His band is a total commitment to give the Tull fans and a broader audience the chance to hear tracks not performed for many years. The current tour sums up Jethro Tull’s place in classic rock. The band includes top musicians from a similar background as Barre as far as musicianship. Dan Crisp sings and plays second guitar, a veteran with 12 years as a member of Barre’s band. Alan Thompson is on bass. “He’s talented on keyboards as well,” Barre says. “Our newest addition, Terl Bryant, plays the drums.”
The flute was one of the hallmarks that Barre and Anderson shared, even if the latter got to play in Jethro Tull. “My band was his support band in 1967. He remembered me from that gig. The flute was irrelevant.”
Jethro Tull had a style all its own. “We never looked back,” Barre says. “We started from scratch when recording albums. We changed direction every time we recorded in the ’70s and ’80s. We worked really hard at what we did and the fans stuck with us.”
Barre’s prowess on the guitar earned him the 25th best solo ever in the U.S. and the 20th in the U.K. for “Aqualung”. His playing on the album Crest of a Knave earned him a Grammy award in 1989. Aside from his own band and Tull, Barre has worked with Paul McCartney, Phil Collins, Jimi Hendrix, Fleetwood Mac, Pink Floyd and Led Zeppelin.
Barre doesn’t think twice about a full tour of two hour shows even after a half century, performing some material rarely heard live.
“I just think it’s normal,” he says of playing live. “It’s a lifetime commitment. If you’re lucky you get to play to old age and produce good music. The concept of going on is the sensible thing.”
In Barre’s band, there is no concept of a solo artist. “It’s important we do everything together. That includes writing and arranging. A lot of ideas that come from me are taken on board by everybody else. But we all have something to say,” he says.
Barre plays a lot more flute with this band. He’s practiced more in the past couple of years. “The more you put into it the more it gives you back.”
Being wedded to Tull music this tour does not means Barre has forsaken his own music. He listens to a lot of new material thanks to his wife and kids. “I wouldn’t say I like much of it,” he says. “But some of it inspires me. I love good playing. What inspires me is talent and innovation.”
He’s also an advocate of live music.
“I write all the time, but I haven’t had a solo recording in four years,” Barre says. “After Covid, I spent two years catching up on shows we postponed. We save the best for last.”
Next year he thinks it’s time to record again. He says, “There’s nowhere to go after this.”
What To Expect
On June 30 at the William Morrow Beach in Somers Point, Barre and band did 22 songs including, but not limited to:
- “Thick as a Brick”
- “Locomotive Breath”
- “Too Old to Rock ‘n’ Roll, Too Young to Die”
- “Watching Me Watching You”
- “Jack Frost and the Hooded Crow”
- “Black Satin Dancer”
If You Go:
Martin Barre brings his Jethro Tull retrospective on October 11 at 7:30 p.m.
- Levoy Theatre, 126-130 High St., Millville
- Tickets: $39 to $47 plus fees.
- 856-327-6400 or visit Levoy.net