“Lovers of the Hammond trios of yore should rush to hear this ferociously swinging super group. The group boasts three of the best players on their respecive instruments in the country…” – Tim Barlow (JazzWise Magazine) “The Organ Trio..provided us with an evening of hard-swinging but ever-subtle music. Conscious of the past but with a contemporary bent, the empathetic playing of Watson and Skelton provided a perfect foil for some of the most relaxed and incisive playing I have heard from Jim Mullen in years. Top-drawer modern jazz.” – Tim Haillay, Brighton Jazz Club “..

Mullen and Watson poured out chorus after chorus as they dismantled Herman Hupfeld’s old standard, from the film Casablanca, and put it back together again. From then on the pace never flagged, and a packed audience roared its approval.” – David Wakefield, Eastern Daily Press “The deceptive nonchalance with which Watson and and Mullen pass the lead from one to the other is a delight in itself, and their accompaniments are small wonders of delicacy and tact. But when they do get a groove going as on Mark Knopfler’s ‘Local Hero’, it’s a killer.” – Dave Gelly, The Observer, Oct 2003






Monday, 22nd March 2004

IT’S so easy to doubt bands like Zero 7. Fundamentally a songwriting duo of Sam Hardaker and Henry Binns, they have been subjected to an inevitable pop backlash following the release of their recent sophomore set, When It Falls.

And their crime? Adhering to their tried and tested formula of harmonic acoustica with subtle electro and ambient jazz inflections.


However, there was a rabble of followers in the Academy last night who were unwilling to listen to the critics, and their faithfulness was duly rewarded in a set of demanding depth and timeless contemporary classics.

With a ten-piece band including five lead vocalists, the group always had the potential to go in different directions and where they lacked cohesion, they more than compensated in abundant variety.


Mosez, Tina Dico, Sophie Fuller, and Yvonne John Lewis all took their chances to shine as brightly and as vividly as the visual backdrop of motion graphics that accompanied their vocal solos, but it was undoubtedly Sia Fuller who stole the show.

Her rendition of Home from the latest LP really got the show rolling while Destiny, taken from their platinum-selling debut Simple Things, brought rapturous applause in lieu of her impassioned and haunting contralto.


Indeed, it was a series of subtle highs from a band of accomplished musicians clearly relishing the vision of their core songwriters. Acclaimed jazz pianist Jim Watson took a titanic rhodes solo on the instrumental title track, When It Falls, while searing guitar solos, sporadic sound effects and polyrhythmic drum riffs were never far from the surface.

Their brand of lounge-funk may have been recently described as aural wallpaper by much of the music press, but there was nothing background about this set.

Mosez’s finale, Warm Sound, thoroughly rocked while the offbeat electro of Yvonne John Moores Look Up wholly justified Hardakers claim that this was for all the N.E.R.D fans out there.

Fittingly though, it was Sia Fuller who had the last word. Justifying a second encore with Distractions, taken from their first album, she ghosted her way around the melody with effortless grace and beauty, and the raucous cheers at the end proved a backlash in itself against all those recently damning reviews.




Just One Of Those Things (Dancing Rhino LZDR 002)


‘……..pianist Jim Watson is the kind of accompanist that singers dream about.’




Live at Brixton Academy 3.04


‘…….Acclaimed jazz pianist Jim Watson took a titanic rhodes solo on the instrumental title track, When It Falls..’




Ronnie Scotts Jazz Club

Friday, 25 January 2013


If the packed stalls at Ronnie’s on the third night of French-Ivorian drum star Manu Katché’s residency this week are thanks to his place at rock’s top table – a session ace for the likes of Peter Gabriel, who sat attentively as a guest at the bar tonight – tells one story, then the fact he’s decamped from his usual concert hall (or stadium) settings to get down and dirty on the no frills stage here, tells the other.

Bringing his current bass-less band to the club – with Norwegian saxophonist Tore Brunborg, Italian trumpeter Luca Aquino, and versatile British keyboardist Jim Watson – the drummer’s coffee-table-cool tunes initially lacked the sparkle of their studio counterparts. Things did not really catch fire until the pace quickened and gaps in the tightly wound arrangements opened up for the solo fireworks to begin. Watson, a pillar of strength playing both bass and chordal roles with workmanlike efficiency, was the first to draw soloistic blood; finally let off the leash some 45 minutes into the set, firing off the most heated solo of the night with a volcanic surge from his Hammond. The drummer’s resulting Cheshire cat-sized smile said it all: this is why he’s really here.

From here on in Katché and Watson’s rapacious grooves required more tonal heft from the horns, and it was Aquino who stepped up to the mark. Replacing Nils Petter Molvaer, who appears on Katché’s most recent self-titled ECM album, the Italian showed that he’s not only adept at NPM/Henriksen-style laptop soundscaping (at one point singing into his trumpet mic to create a wafting electronic choir), but also whipping up some welcome post-bop solo heat. He’s undoubtedly a name to watch out for. But this was always Katché’s gig, his infectious grin and irrepressible energy bringing enough pulse quickening excitement to lift even the most pedestrian moments into the realms of pure groove pleasure.

– Mike Flynn




Nottingham Jazzhouse, Bonnington Theatre, Thursday, June 6, 2002


A CAPACITY audience greeted this fabulous outfit for what was only the second night of its UK tour, having played a devastating first night on Wednesday in Leeds. The music featured was from Guy Barker’s latest project Soundtrack, recently released on Provocateur Records. Barker, who is one of Britain’s most spectacular trumpet players, has drawn on the rich legacy of music left by the composers of scores for the great movies of the 1940s and 1950s. He has combined his musical skills with his love of the films of this era to write superb compositions and arrangements for the show, which received a standing ovation after this outstanding performance at the Bonnington.“We’re having too much fun already,” quipped Guy during one of his announcements.


Guy had gone to great lengths to get the sound he wanted for his septet, which resulted in it having a truly international flavour. From France he had recruited Olivier Temime (tenor saxophone); from Italy, fiery alto-saxophonist Rosario Giuliani; from Burnley, Lancs., a wonderful trombonist in Barnaby Dickinson; local lad Jim Watson from Mansfield enthralled on piano and Hammond organ; stalwart on bass was Orlando Le Fleming and Dutchman Sebastiaan DeKrom was outstanding on drums. Overall, the band achieved the loose, freewheeling swing very reminiscent of the groups led by the great Charles Mingus.

Playing a modern streamlined trumpet, Barker was magnificent throughout. He was in complete command of his instrument, displaying extreme flexibility by using a unique half-valve technique, which allowed him to “bend” notes in any direction. Guy’s solos ranged from flamboyant and aggressive on the faster numbers to a melodic and lyrical approach to ballads.


Tenor-saxist Olivier Temime, who proved a bold improviser and exciting soloist. He was the perfect foil for Rosario Giuliani, from Italy, playing alongside him on alto-sax. Giuliani was also a remarkable soloist, ranging from hot and peppery to subtle and smooth. Trombonist Barnaby Dickinson from Burnley, Lancs, showed extreme agility and supreme accuracy, while Jim Watson, who originates from Mansfield, brought roars of approval from the capacity audience for his superb eruptions on his Korg keyboard (which produced his Hammond organ sound) coupled with his consummate piano playing. Sebastiaan De Kron, the band’s highly proficient Dutch drummer, headed a powerful rhythm section. He was aided by a rich bottom line from bassist Orlando Le Fleming, also a dexterous, accurate soloist.


The programme was rich and varied and among the many highlights was a wonderful arrangement of Nature Boy, arranged by Colin Towns. This received sympathetic and delicate treatment from Guy and some intriguing piano from Jim Watson. A new number, which I was told would feature on the septet’s next CD, was the rockin’ and rollin’ Jivestick powered initially by Jim Watson’s Hammond organ sound over shuffling drums. Great solos all round with shouting tenor from Temime and super bass by Orlando who also led a spirited ensemble into Waiting For The Delay. Superb trombone from Barnaby was followed by Guy’s trumpet, playing with tremendous vigour and attack. Colourful phrasing in a well constructed solo from Rosario Giuliani, before the ensemble pulled out all the stops with Guy half-valving in a tremendous finish.

After playing brilliant arrangements inspired by film music past, present and future, the whole of the second set was taken up by Barker’s Sounds In Black And White suite, in which each musician played a character in an imaginary film. It was the wonderful sounds and textures and outstanding musicianship that figured in the piece that led to the standing ovation as the concert came to an exciting finish.




Bonnington. Theatre, High Street, Arnold

9th October 2003


HERE at last, was some straight-ahead hard bop, real music we could get our teeth into. Damon’s dedication to the jazz style that evolved in the 1950s around the output of world-famous Blue Note Records is paying dividends in terms of new invention, authenticity and sheer excitement. Damon is a resourceful instrumentalist possessing advanced technical dexterity as a trumpeter and a wealth of creative ideas as an improviser. His quintet was further enhanced by the inclusion of Alan Barnes playing alto and baritone saxophones. Alan is highly versatile jazzman, able to slot in many different styles, but this particular brand of hard bop and his combination with Damon, seems to be his penchant, judging by the way he fits into the band. He played with an instantly communicable confidence; his contributions on alto sax were fiery and full of humour; his baritone had a creamy, rich tone like strong cafe latte.


Heading a fine rhythm section was Mansfield pianist Jim Watson, who continues to amaze. His technical abilities on the Bonnington.’s Steinway showed no bounds and he has worked out a very definite individual style. French bassist Gilles Naturel joined the group since Damon has been living in Paris. He played with a firm accuracy and wonderful rich tone. His solos were both dextrous and inventive. Drummer Sebastian Rochford was an intelligent and listening punctuator, propelling the soloists with a wide variety of accents and percussive timbres.


A Damon original, Yeah, started proceedings, a 12-bar and pure bebop. Damon took first solo exhibiting his fat, brassy tone. Alan Barnes breathed fire through his alto, followed by Jim Watson with a brilliantly constructed piano solo. Harold’s Souk was dedicated to tenor saxist Harold Land and was built around a classic bossa rhythm. Timeless horn from Damon, rich in ideas with a crackling, rapid delivery. Alan’s alto again was executed with style and panache. My Deposit was another for the boppers, highlighting Jim Watson’s strident, happy piano. One from the Mingus pen was Nostalgia In Times Square where Alan Barnes’ baritone came to the fore with its rich, dark brown tones, played with a similar fluency as his smaller instrument.


Busted Back Blues with its long tacit breaks came in with a slinky intro, Damon contrasting rapid runs with long notes, high and growling low notes and effective half valving. Alan used the whole range of his baritone in an absolutely devastating solo. Jim was relaxed and explorative on piano while Gilles Naturel’s bass solo covered the whole gamut of his instrument.


September In The Rain was played as a bop theme and was one of the highlights of the whole evening. Alan’s baritone was bright and perky. Damon hugged the theme briefly before exploring every facet of this old standard. Jim introduced some amazing block chording in his solo. Strong interplay as the two front-liners exchanged choruses. Kit Kat, written by Damon for his sister, revolved around an unusual time signature and featured Jim Watson’s devastatingly articulate piano. Alan was searching and inventive with his searing alto a perfect foil for Damon’s singing lines played with great power.


After the interval Janine reproduced the great sounds of Cannonball and Nat Adderley to an uncanny perfection . . . spot-on with the original. Undaunted the group launched into another killer time signature with Mini The Minx. Alan tackled the theme with grace and panache. Damon followed without pausing for breath with a sizzling contribution. On Hank Mobley’s Funk In Deep Freeze Damon burst forth from a nicely interpreted theme with superb control and invention. Alan followed – his alto digging up some hilarious quotes. Damon wrapped himself around a ballad, Sky Blue, giving it plenty of TLC. Jim Watson followed this with an absolutely beautiful solo, full of unusual twists and turns. Moanin’ was a short, but sweet encore, but well received as the group had played well over its allotted time. A great evening’s music – I’ve said this before but I’ll say it again . . . I wish there were as many groups around like this as there are trad bands!









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