|Jim Mullen. Photo credit : Melody McLaren|
A Benefit for Jim Mullen will take place on March 22nd at the 606 Club. Mike Gorman who has worked for many years in Jim’s organ trio is the instigator/organizer of the concert. Mike explains the circumstances that have led to it, and looks forward to the evening. Mike Gorman writes:
JIM MULLEN, one of the most talented guitarists of his (or any) generation, is the possessor of that most rare quality in a musician: a unique and instantly recognisable voice on his instrument. Jim was recently, and quite suddenly, afflicted by a serious and rare infection which involved several operations including skin grafting, and it will involve months of physiotherapy to recover.
After hearing this awful and shocking news I called some of his friends and colleagues to organise a benefit gig for him at the 606 Club on 22 March. The level of goodwill and eagerness to help immediately expressed by all can be taken as a testament to the love, respect and admiration felt for Jim by musicians from many genres across the music scene.
It’s an overused cliche to talk about artists who have “it”, that “x-factor” (nothing to do with the TV show) – the intangible talent of instant communication with an audience that can neither be learnt nor taught, and a seemingly effortless fluency on their instrument (using a very unconventional technique – the thumb).
Whatever this elusive “it” is, Jim Mullen has it in spades. As the organist in his trio for the last 14 years, I’ve had the privilege of sharing all sorts of stages on all sorts of gigs with Jim, and have experienced time and time again the momentum shift in the music that happens when Jim launches into a solo.
One thing that strikes you when you perform with Jim regularly is that no matter what the size, situation or genre of the gig, he always gives 100% and plays with complete conviction. This sort of focus is one of the things that separates truly great musicians from the rest of us, and is an invaluable inspiration and example of how music can and should be addressed when performing.
One of the reasons musicians like Jim are very important to the scene and the musical community is that in jazz, as in all art, when you find yourself in the presence of an individual creativity that you can aspire to but not necessarily emulate, it inevitably encourages growth and further fulfilment of potential, which in turn ultimately results in the development of the art form in successive generations.
On a personal level, while Jim is recovering from treatment and convalescing, I and so many other musicians will miss the man whose endearing idiosyncrasies are as multifarious as the range of emotions he displays while playing the guitar.
He is generous, big hearted, sharp (in intellect, not tuning), engaging, cultured and funny.
He is a master of pacing and timing a gig so it finishes at the right time with the right tune, and is a stickler for starting a set on time – drummer Matt Skelton and I were sometimes slightly less than punctual on this front and we would often joke that we should make our way from the bar to the stage as Jim was already “standing to attention” with his guitar.
|“…wringing lyrical poetry out of six strings and a thumb.”
Jim Mullen’s hands. Photo credit : Melody McLaren
Anyone who has shared a long car journey with Jim (who incidentally describes himself as a “professional passenger”) will be aware of another amusing but often useful tendency he has of vehemently disagreeing with the sat nav about the best route. More than once we’ve successfully arrived at a gig because of Jim’s map reading skills.
The life of a self-employed musician is truly one of a vocational nature, one in which there can be found great personal fulfilment when engaged in a performance, but also sometimes one in which there is little security of income or predictability of work.
Because of this, it is a double blow when a musician like Jim is temporarily incapacitated by illness, which not only stifles income, but also removes the opportunity to perform.
Thus, the benefit gig is an opportunity for his fans, friends and colleagues to show gratitude and love for the man who has inspired us all with years of incredible musicianship, and help him on to a speedy recovery so that he can once again wring lyrical poetry out of six strings and a thumb.
The gig is at the 606 Club on 22nd March and features Hamish Stuart, Tony O’Malley, Claire Martin, Gareth Williams, Noel McCalla, Stan Sulzmann, Henry Lowther and many great supporting musicians.