FOR lovers of jazz – and for that matter live music – there is no more atmospheric London venue than the 606 Club.
Situated in an unassuming road in swanky Chelsea, this intimate club has been providing a musical platform for more than 40 years. Long may it thrive. Live music seven nights a week as well as on a Sunday lunchtime. Rarely does 606 sleep.
It is run with great aplomb – and dedication – by the modest Steve Rubie, ably supported by club manager James. Chalk and cheese. Laurel and Hardy. Mr Rubie, all frowns. James, all acerbic wit.
You only need to get hold of the club’s monthly newsletter to get a feel for Mr Rubie’s musical passion (he is an accomplished musician himself). Detailed (musical) notes accompany every performer that is due to appear at the club. It’s a monthly work of art. Does Mr Rubie sleep? Like the club I doubt it.
The club, hidden away in a basement only accessible by ringing a bell and waiting for James to let you in, attracts devotees. Not just lovers of live music but performers as well.
Once you have experienced it, you want more. 606 is like a drug and when the occasion demands it the audience push their vegetable spring rolls to one side and dance the night away.
The likes of Sarah Jane Morris (sexy deep voice and counterpoint to Jimmy Sommerville in the Communards), Wayne Hernandez (ditto, sexy deep voice who gets the endorphins racing), Lianne Carroll (wonderful live act), Beverly Skeete (ex Rhythm Kings) and Ian Shaw (all passion and politics) are regulars.
As are Sarah Gillespie, Gilad Atzmon (a sublime saxophonist), Tony O’Malley and ex Average White Band frontman Hamish Stuart (Pick Up the Pieces).
Indeed, this month sees Skeete, Shaw, O’Malley, Hernandez and Gillespie all return to the club. An electic mix, ranging from the husky Mowtown sound of Hernandez through to the Chris Rea like voice of O’Malley. Check them out.
You can dine at 606 if the mood gets you. The food is respectable and greatly enhanced by a good wine list (especially the Macon Lugny and Green Fish Verdejo). Alternatively, you can loiter in the back bar and just drink yourself somewhat silly.
Yet it is the 606’s ability to surprise that keeps it moving forward. New artists come along occasionally (sanctioned of course by a demanding Mr Rubie) while new evening formats are experimented with. For example, wine tasting nights with music to match.
Mr Rubie’s latest idea (March 31) was to bring to the stage acclaimed guitarist Antonio Forcione and Canadian singer Tammy Weis for an evening of music based primarily on the poetry of Portuguese philosopher Fernando Pessoa (1888 to 1935).
Individual poems of Pessoa were read out in Portuguese before Ms Weis and Mr Forcione – accompanied by the wonderful Jenny Adejayan on cello and Alua Nascimento on percussion – turned them into music. All under the theme of ‘Finding Pessoa’. Standout tracks included ‘Desire’ and ‘Sleep’.
Unique? Yes. Enjoyable? Yes, although it would have been good to learn more about the journey from Pessoa to the making of the music, a journey triggered by Ms Weis’ discovery of the poet’s work while visiting Lisbon.
As ever, Mr Forcione was formidable, interrupting project ‘Finding Pessoa’ with his own interpretations of ‘I Heard it Through the Grapevine’ and Henry Mancini’s ‘The Cool Cat’. Both were rapturously received.
The intention is for Ms Weis and Mr Forcione to release an album later this year based around 12 of Pessoa’s poems. If it is half as good as Mr Forcione’s last album ‘Compared to What’ (with Sarah Jane Morris), it will be worth buying.
Indeed, Mr Forcione and Sarah Jane Morris are performing at Brassiere Zedel on April 7 and 8. If you have not heard them before, I urge you to give them a try.
And when you are in London at night and looking for something special to do, ring 606’s bell and let James allow you to enjoy live music at its very best.