28 August 2013

Another number

Why do jazz clubs have numbers? 505, 606, 55? I doubt it’s always the street number, but I could be wrong. I got to one here in London the other night. This was 606. It’s a pleasant space with pleasant staff. Café tables, dinners, strangely no drinks unless you eat. It’s the local licensing and it seems somewhat dated, especially for a major international city. I drank ginger beer with a Victorian herb-brewer’s label and a supremely sharp ginger bite on the tongue. This scene is warm and chatty and relatively well dressed and it pays the musos by bringing in visitors to the jazz scene, but it can be disappointing to the die-hards and to some degree to the musos. (For die-hards, dinner / jazz clubs are best during the week when they seem to present more adventurous fare; I guess the weekends pay the bills). I thought that was the case last night. The band was capable, no doubt about that. I liked the bass take on solos mixing high thumb position phrasings and diminished intervals with open strings. I particularly enjoyed the pianist and his attentive ears as he comped against the tenor solos. These were very good ears and he had a welcoming good-humour that was musically infectious. The drums were strangely open with sweeps and feints and fewer hits than you’d expect. This was a trio backing Bobby Wellins. He was introduced as a Glaswegian and a veteran of the English jazz scene. He’d released one of the biggest selling English jazz albums in the ‘60s and played later with the Charlie Watts Big Band. I liked his more mellow tone, his sense of melody and his undemonstrative flourishes and dissonances. I only stayed for the first set (which started later than I’d expected after a long wait fretting over the London Tube that doesn’t run all night). Certainly there were some sparks, an unexpectedly involving drum solo (well received, as drum solos seem to be amongst irregular audiences) and some beautifully simple and well constructed solos from the pianist. But the whole felt tired, tame, somewhat disconnected. Don’t get me wrong. These are decent players. They are a little mainstream for my tastes (mostly swing and walks like I play) but I could hear skills and taste that was attractive. But, at least for me it didn’t gel on the night. Too bad; another time. Bobby Wellins (sax) led a quartet with Barry Green (piano), Mick Hutton (bass) and Simon Lee (drums) at the 606 jazz club in London.

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