Live reviews

Mike Walker feat. Andrew Bain at Frank & Mark’s, Oxford

Mike Walker , Andrew Bain, Frank Harrison, Mark Hodgson
(Frank & Mark’s at Iffley Church Hall, East Oxford. 18 October 2023. Live review by Mark Rowan-Hull)

Mike Walker (front) & Mark Hodgson (back)

Many moons ago as a student in Stoke on Trent, my brother (now a Philosopher) told me about this incredible guitarist he’d just seen standing in for John Scofield, playing for the legendary Mike Gibbs Orchestra. Of course, I took note!

His name was Mike Walker. Since then my brother and I between us have kept a track on his career, seeing him with a variety of bands, in different contexts relatively recently with the Impossible Gentlemen but rarely on his own. .

This gig at my local Frank and Mark’s was with musician friends Mark Hodgson (bass) and Frank Harrison (piano) this time joined with the sensitive renowned drummer Andrew Bain. This performance coincided with the loss of the glorious Carla Bley and so it was particularly touching to hear Mike Walker speak with gentle warmth of his friend and collaborator Steve Swallow, and the night ended with a graceful performance of Swallow’s amazing “Ladies In Mercedes”.

The playing (as ever) was beautiful, harmonious and sensitive. There was often a lovely silence at the end of each piece. Both my brother and I independently thought Mark Hodgson seemed to channel the great Scott LaFaro on this rainy evening. There was a particularly accurate and lovely version of an old forgotten Scofield Tune “Keep Me In Mind” where I could almost hear Joe Lovano (on the original) stepping in from the sides. And a great version of “Strange Meeting” by Bill Frisell too. Another highlight for me was Walker’s own intricate tune “Clockmaker”.

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Walker, at the end of the evening, remarked gently of the ‘beautiful vibe’ of the evening. His words rang true and were moving in the context of such a sad day for music, and such a traumatic week in the world.

Mark Rowan-Hull is a visual artist based near Oxford – website

LINK: Frank and Mark’s Jazz website

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