REVIEW: Christian Brewer and Jim Mullen Quintet at The Woodman, Highgate

The Woodman
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Christian Brewer and Jim Mullen Quintet
(The Woodman. Highgate. June 2017. Review by Brian Blain)

Just one of those summer evening's 'let's go for a pint and catch Christian Brewer's second set' occasions at his increasingly popular Funky Thursdays at The  Woodman- right next door to Highgate Underground.

So, in we go through a crowded garden wondering whether there will be anyone inside, only to find the two spaces around the bar filled with a youngish crowd, some showing off their dance moves, others just moving and grooving to music which was popular before many of them were born.....

Such an atmosphere, but before we could even elbow our way to the bar, could it be?...Yes it was; the unmistakable sound, phrasing, sheer bite and beautifully constructed choruses of our best loved guitar player. After a devastating illness at the beginning of the year the main man, Jim Mullen is back, although he told us it will be a few more months before total fitness is reached. 

Christian Brewer, creator of  so many North London scenes,is an alto/soprano player of driving enthusiasm,power and creativity,though not done many favours on this occasion by a distinctly underwhelming PA system seemed totally delighted to be reunited with a natural soul mate Tunes by writers such as Jeff Lorber, Grover Washington Joe Zawinul and Stevie Wonder had me stirring the memory cells trying to remember the titles of so many old favourites.

None of it would have worked without a tight rhythm section totally at home with that powerful but modest unshowy feel that funk demands. Veterans of that scene Crispin Taylor (dms) and Winston Blissett, a dancing bear of an electric bassist with his bottom ended 'grumbly' bass sound, together with Mullen's regular keyboard player Mike Gorman provided a perfect platform from which Jim  and Christian could take off. An evening of total delight ; weird that so many musicians seem to think that this particular bag is all a bit beneath them: too simplistic perhaps? Or maybe they just don't have that magic 'get down' feeling.

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