REPORT: Don Weller Tribute at the 606 Club

Don Weller at the 2015 Herts Jazz Festival
Photo credit: Melody McLaren

Don Weller Tribute
(606 Club. 10 September 2018. Report by Brian Blain)

If you wanted to catch up on the unpretentious heart of 'modern' mainstream jazz then the place to be last Monday week was the 606 Club when 10 of Britain's finest came together to play for free in tribute to one of the truly great English players, tenorist Don Weller, now in retirement.

Great to see Dick Pearce, a trumpeter currently in Shropshire, once a member of Ronnie Scott's Quintet and the author of the most authentic account of a jazz musician's life that I have read, in the first band, along with Dave Newton (piano), Arnie Somogyi (bass), Dave Barry (drums) and the irrepressible Alan Barnes (alto). Kicking off with a brisk trot through It's You Or No-one, Newton roused the crowd with a thundering solo while the band laid out, giving a lift to the evening which seemed to kickstart everyone else. Pearce was sweetly melodic on Misty, in a ballad medley, but for me it was Barnes, on the superb Detour Ahead, that provided the emotional high in this first set. Janine was good; a great jazz standard and a tempo that gave the rhythm section a chance to settle into a nice easy flowing groove. How these guys – and the next band as well – can pull all this varied material together with no rehearsal and just experience and ears to make it all work is really quite remarkable and something we all take for granted, always expecting a new musical peak that must be scaled to justify the claim of 'artist'.

Next up two tenor titans Art Themen, who got the ball rolling with the original Phone Calls, and Mornington Lockett, with John Donaldson (piano), Jim Mullen (guitar), Andy Cleyndert (bass) and Clark Tracey (drums), and into the set with a Dexter Gordon tune, one of Art's favourites, and a brisk It Could Happen To You, with Mullen's unique sound and biting attack providing an astringent contrast to the bustling voices of the jousting tenors. One of the really subtle blues lines , Charles Lloyd's Third Floor Richard, with its slightly Monk-ish overtones, gave John Donaldson the chance to get down to some head shaking stuff. By the time we got to the closer, a roaring Just One of Those Things, Tracey and Cleyndert were really flying, giving the feeling that they could have gone on all night. Club owner Steve Rubie had brought his flute to the party on the Charles Lloyd tune and –  while thanking everyone for the music and their support for Don Weller – let's not forget his role in donating the club for the evening to make it possible. This was the jazz community at its best.

LINK: Art Themen's preview of the Tribute Night

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