Trudy Kerr and Mornington Lockett at the 606 Club

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With flickering candlelight on tables in the enveloping dark and the great Duke Ellington smiling down on proceedings from the back wall, the 606 Club in Chelsea delivers a seductive atmosphere, even at 1.30pm in the afternoon. This Father’s Day lunchtime, club owner Steve Rubie heartily welcomed onto the stage Trudy Kerr on vocals and her regular working trio, Tom Cawley on piano, Geoff Gascoyne on double bass and Sebastiaan de Krom on drums. They were joined by special guest, Mornington Lockett on tenor saxophone for one set, which included some rarely-heard jazz standards.

It was obvious from the outset that these guys have fun playing together: ponytailed Lockett’s chatty tenor dexterously hit the high notes during rousing opener, ‘Alone Together’. Here Cawley’s unusual piano solo of slightly discordant tumbling phrases was reminiscent of American jazz pianist, Phineas Newborn’s florid playing. This worked well in combination with Gascoyne’s more melodic walking bass line, and de Krom’s military-sounding bass drum and cymbal alternations added even more colour. Kerr then joined them, statuesque in a sparkling white jacket for ‘On A Clear Day (You Can See Forever)’. Delicate ‘black soul’ inflections could be heard in her singing, which infused a yearning sincerity with grittier swing.

During bossa nova ‘Where Or When’, the atonality of acclaimed composer Cawley’s piano solo jarred with the song’s harmonic progression as if he was trying to break free of a ‘jazz standard’ straitjacket, whereas Kerr’s sense of humour (she confided that her husband, Gascoyne, “got a remote control cushion” for Father’s Day), endeared her to the sizeable audience. She’d chosen the Nat King Cole hit, ‘L-O-V-E’ for all the children present, which involved an arm-waving element of audience participation; well-placed at the peak of the gig to keep the energy flowing.

A rhythmically vibrant, cutesy performance of jazz waltz, ‘Up Jumped A Bird’ by Kerr’s musical hero, American songwriter, Bob Dorough, followed with all the band shouting, “Woo!” in unison throughout. By this time the head-solos-head song arrangements had become too predictable and Gascoyne craning his neck to read a wad of chord charts he’d plonked unceremoniously inside the grand piano, looked unprofessional. Significant silences then occurred between the remaining numbers while the band discussed what they were going to play next. This level of unpreparedness from world-class jazz musicians playing at a major venue in front of a paying audience doesn’t do jazz any favours, and separates out the good enough from the truly great.

– Gemma Boyd (story and photo)