Pete Atkin

with Simon Wallace, Mark Hodgson and Roy Dodds
guest appearance by Sarah Moule

606 Club, London SW10, May 12th 2008

Pete's performance at this Chelsea jazz club, by Naomi Hyamson

606 Club

Tonight Pete - accompanied  by Simon Wallace (piano), Mark Hodgson (bass) and Roy Dodds (drums) - won the hearts of a discriminating audience of jazz cognoscenti just off the Kings Rd.

There was a respectable turnout of MVs: not only were the Noble Houses of Birkill and Bleksley in attendance but also familiar faces such as Ian Sorensen and Yvonne, and Sharon and Ian. Nevertheless, the bulk of the audience were new to us, and very appreciative and responsive they were too - gratifyingly so, given that the fare on offer was quite a departure for this leading jazz venue.

The 606 Club is very much my sort of place - downstairs, intimate and atmospheric. There's a low ceiling. It's very much the right kind of venue to hear Pete, I feel - allowing his subtle art to communicate its nuances. It sure did tonight, and Pete was on superb form and fine voice.

Logistics made our trusty scribe Jan unable to "go to Chelsea" (as Mr Elvis Costello put it in another context) - and in her unavoidable absence I took down the set-list. Apologies in advance not only for my lacunae in knowledge and memory but problems in transcribing my illegible handwriting. (I can only assume that what looks in my scrawl like "On Ilkley Moor Baht 'At" should actually read: "I play piano in a jazz quartet").

Simon, seated at an impressive Yamaha Grand, and the band opened the evening with some classy Rodgers and Hart.

They were then joined by Pete, who had brought along his new Atkin guitar, with which he is plainly besotted: a black Small Jumbo Deluxe, which produces a full, warm sound.

They began with Master of the Revels - in the wonderfully sinister arrangement recorded on the new CD. Instruction and delight indeed !

This segued straight into Laughing Boy - and boy, did I like Simon's impassioned piano solo. Throughout the show, Simon provided strong yet never showy impetus.

A nicely insinuating Thief in the Night

Sessionman's Blues - suitably laconic improvisation from Simon

Perfect Moments - that poignant combination of Pete's voice and Simon's piano

"In honour of the weather", Pete said, they then played I Wouldn't Hear a Word Against the Spring in a suitably-cool jazz rendition. Since they put it so convincingly, I shall now stop complaining that it is too hot in London !

Senior Citizens

An Empty Table - just Pete's voice and Simon's piano, of course. So touching.

I've Got Me to Thank

Payday Evening - captivating, charming.

Our excellent Sarah Moule joined Pete to close the first half with a duet of Be Careful When They Offer You the Moon

After the interval - during which Hayley did an excellent job selling CDs ...

Pete sang - just with guitar-  Have You Got A Biro I Can Borrow?

Pete then spoke about the website - and there was a fully deserved round of applause for the man who made everything possible, Steve Birkill

Pete then explained that he and Clive had started out intending to write for other singers - such as Julie Covington. His rendition of Winter Kept us Warm had the intimacy that we so prize in his singing

Mark then returned to the stage to accompany Pete in Beware of the Beautiful Stranger

and the rest of the band joined them in The Hypertension Kid (Pete did not play guitar in this one)

then - Screen Freak

Faded Mansion on the Hill - given an intense reading by Pete

Touch has a Memory - with again, an expressive introduction from Simon

Pete's rendition of The Flowers and the Wine was so lovely. For this - and indeed for the rest of the evening, Pete didn't play his guitar but just sang.

Speaking as a singer myself (so I am biased), this is how I best like to hear Pete ... it really allows us to hear his art as a vocalist. Very, very few singers can communicate so much by "less is more"; by sheer timbre and words. It's an instruction and delight !

Pete described the song as "an attempt to expiate the doom by singing about it".

Then we had Thirty-Year Man

and they closed with Between Us There is Nothing ...

and after very warm applause, an encore: The original Original Honky Tonk Night Train Blues

It was a great night.

Richard Bleksley adds :

Well, that must be the first (and will almost certainly be the last) time I have been referred to as "noble." Pete, on the other hand, catching sight of me and my party in the almost empty club as we were being ushered to a table right by the bandstand (I had, for once in my life, under-estimated the time for a journey) remarked: "Ah, I see some of the usual suspects are here already."

Lady Naomi's remarks about the venue are right on target, especially about it being the right kind of venue for Pete.  Intimate? Oh yes. I might almost say "funky." In the more informal atmosphere than at St. George's, and sitting as I was much, much nearer the musicians, Pete's band sound came over with a whole new freshness and immediacy. Oh, and the sound balance was noticeably better than at St. George's. I don't think I've ever enjoyed an Atkin gig more.

As for the compulsory dining, good food, imaginatively prepared, was served with commendable snappiness, at least until the dessert.  And it's a real pleasure to be able to enjoy a good dinner and then stay right where you are and hear good music afterwards, all the more so since (as I seem to remember remarking to that nice Mr. Birkill) there usually seems to be a time-eating, stress-raising jinx on my eating before Atkin gigs.

It occurred to me that the band were doing their opening number in a spirit of "Let's play a bit of proper jazz before we have to settle down to backing that Atkin fellow," but that was probably just an outbreak of cynical humour on my part. Whatever the reason, it was a nice showcase for their instrumental talents.

Lest you think that Naomi was going over the top by saying that Pete was "plainly besotted" with his new guitar (this was its first gig), I should add that he described it as "the new love of my life."

I don't think Naomi's set-list needs any corrections as such, but here are a few added comments of my own.

I haven't checked with Jan's spreadsheet, but surely I Wouldn't Hear a Word Against the Spring and Winter Kept Us Warm must count as rarities. I'm sure I've never heard either live before - not that my memory is necessarily to be trusted nowadays.

I don't know whether I was just in the mood for it, but I thought that Pete's and Simon's rendition of An Empty Table was the best version of it I've ever heard. Quite wonderful. Those of you who are familiar with the spine-chilling gloominess of I've Got Me to Thank may get a bit worried when I say I like it; but I do, and so it was nice to hear it again. Any chance of a recording of it (not to mention And Here We Stay and Time To Burn) any time soon?

Having missed the Wavendon gig (logistics inevitably determined that I should attend this one instead), it was a particularly gratifying surprise when Pete invited Sarah Moule up to join him on Be Careful When They Offer You the Moon. Their duet on this one is, for me, one of the highlights of the Midnight Voices album, and this version was every bit as good.

I particularly enjoyed Mark Hodgson's bass playing on Beware of the Beautiful Stranger: it really drove the number along.

This may well have been the very first time Thirty Year Man has been performed in exactly the sort of setting that the song describes - very appropriate.

All in all, a most enjoyable evening. I believe I overheard somebody from the club inviting Pete back, so who knows? Maybe we'll have the chance to do it all over again sometime.

[Sorry folks, no 'click for hi-res version' this time. My camera didn't appreciate the low light and high contrast ratio — SJB]

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