HANNAH BINNEY takes us inside the West London jazz club.
On a residential road in Chelsea, behind a gated door at the top of a flight of steps, this particular jazz venue is very different from any other club I’ve been to. Down the steps is the room where the staff of the 606 Club sit with a big book full of table bookings. With thick coats swamping the available wall space, the music is already playing when I arrive. The basement club is crowded with candlelit tables. Couples, families, and groups are having dinner in front of a low stage. And the music – a saxophone, drum kit, piano, and bass all rattle out classic jazz with fierce energy and enthusiasm.
This was the ‘Saxophone Summit’, a concert in the 606 Club in Chelsea on Saturday and part of the London Jazz Festival. I went along to observe, take in the mood of the venue, and, of course, enjoy the music. Quite predictably, the concert focused on saxophone playing, with amazing solo and group performances from veteran saxophonists as well as the bassist, pianist, and drum player.
The 606 Club, known as ‘The Six’, has been in existence for over 30 years and moved to Lots Road in Chelsea from a smaller venue on the Kings Road due to its popularity as a jazz hangout. It now functions as a club where people can have dinner while listening to the music. With a comfortable and intimate fee, it still gives a sense of its strong reputation for talent and creativity. You can almost feel the cigarette smoke that used to fill basement clubs like these. The warm candlelight and piled in tables and chairs gives the club a cosy atmosphere.
The Sax Summit was an impressive display of energy; it lasted three hours with continuous performances from the drummer, pianist, and bassist. The sheer talent and ability of the musicians was clear and their fluency and instinct was shown through their solos as much as through their communication with one another. The music moved through a range of styles, from conventional to experimental and from pacey to slower.
The concert was exactly what I had hoped for. Jazz is a great genre because of the talent demonstrated by its players, the opportunities for improvisation and experimentation and because of the positive and euphoric energy. There is something captivating about classic jazz in particular, especially played in basement jazz clubs; jazz is the kind of music to which I find myself unconsciously tapping along.
For the musicians, the music is much more than something to tap along to. Peter King was first booked to play as a jazz musician in 1959 at the age of 19. His playing had a natural air and a confidence to it that only comes with his decades of experience. Brandon Allen, originally from Australia, has been playing saxophone since the age of 13 and has played with a range of star musicians including Eric Clapton and Paloma Faith. The musicians came together beautifully in this concert.
It is past midnight. The concert begins to thin out as the diners finish their meals, pay, and leave, which makes the concert feel more immediate. A finale and the music finishes. Applause and few words from the club owner. I slip out into the entrance room, unhook my coat from the great pile and climb back up the stairs into the night.
Photo Credits: Hannah Binney
This event took place on the 15th November and is part of the EFG London Jazz Festival, which ends on the 22nd November.