There’s probably no better place to find genuine warmth on a bitterly cold December evening than the 606, and no better occasion to savour it than the birthday gathering of a universallly liked and respected figure in British jazz, guitarist Jim Mullen (photo : Jeff Hardcastle/creative commons).
Jim Mullen inspires affection. A number of people who had hoped, expected to be there had found themselves and their trains and cars completely snow-bound. Nevertheless Matt Skelton had been able to assemble – in secrecy – an impressive line-up. A quadruple bill, no less.
A first set from Henry Lowther, Dave Cliff, Dave Green and Stu Butterfield had been and gone by the time I arrived. But the second. with Jim Mullen’s organ trio with Mike Gorman and Matt Skelton was pure pleasure. Mullen’s gentle way with the melody of You’ve Changed was special, beautiful poetic. There’s always a sense of line, a feeling of being unhurried, and of having something meaningful to say with every note. And final cadenza, bringing the whole band to a millimetre-perfect landing was memorable. But their is also inner strength in Mullen’s playing. The final number was Mike Gorman’s Smokescreen, a fast and furious 5/4 dispatched with ease, energy and a robust swagger.
After the arrival, and the eating, of a massive birthday cake – a picture will appear here in due course ! – the third band of the night was Mark Nightingale on trombone, with much to enjoy in the contributions of Graham Harvey on piano, Mick Hutton bass and Ian Thomas, drums. Mullen joined them for a delightful and serene Stars Fell on Alabama, and an energetic Straight no Chaser.
The fourth set brought Bosco Oliveira and Curtis Stigers to the stand. Reports please???
Great to be reminded of the particular kind of warmth, affection and good humour that comes from the bandstand, and from the strong beating heart of a community of talented and dedicated people. It’s what a cold climate needs.