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Jim Mullen

Self-taught guitarist headlines at Jazz Hastings

Jazz legend Jim Mullen will be headlining at this month’s Jazz Hastings session on Tuesday 9 May at East Hastings Sea Angling Association. He describes himself as one of the last generation of self-taught guitarists, writes Jazz Hastings’ Julian Norridge.

A self-styled ghetto kid from Glasgow, Jim Mullen says his family had no money for music education, so he taught himself. “There was nobody to fix my mistakes,” he recalls, “so basically I’m left-handed playing right-handed. Also [like his hero Wes Montgomery] I play with my thumb.”

Not using a pick helped forge his idiosyncratic guitar skills. “I use the flesh of my thumb, all down strokes. Wes Montgomery had a double-jointed thumb and played up and down strokes. I can only play down, so I have 50 per cent of the technique of a pick player.”

To make up for this limitation he uses an abundance of guitar techniques like hammers-on, pull-offs, sliding and bending which result in smooth saxophone-like phrasing.

Down to London

Jim left Glasgow for London in 1969 and played with various rock bands such as Pete Brown’s Piblokto! (two albums), Brian Auger’s Oblivion Express (three albums), Vinegar Joe (one album) and Kokomo (one album).

JimMullen 300Then in 1975, via the Average White Band, he met tenor sax player Dick Morrissey. Together they formed the legendary jazz funk band Morrissey-Mullen. “We became one of the top club bands: four, five, six nights a week playing to full houses. We had 15 years of that before ill health forced Dick to pull out.”

Since then Jim has worked with jazz vocalist Claire Martin (three albums) and formed a series of quartets (three albums) and a highly rated organ trio. Over the years he has also been much in demand by visiting US stars such as Mose Allison, Jimmy Smith, Percy Sledge and Jimmy Witherspoon.

Many accolades

Jazzwise Magazine has described him as “one of the great jazz guitarists working today”. He has won many British music awards, including ‘Best Guitar’ three times in the British Telecom Jazz Awards (1994, 1996 and 2000).

One critic summed up his appeal like this: “Brilliant spontaneity, forged from a lifetime’s dedication to studying, absorbing and most of all playing great music, is what Mullen watchers have come to expect from one of jazz’s true originals.”

His quartet for Tuesday’s session will feature Jazz Hastings regulars John Donaldson on piano, Simon Thorpe on bass and Spike Wells on drums.

Jim Mullen 
Jazz Hastings May session, Tuesday 9 May, East Hastings Sea Angling Association (on the Stade behind the lifeboat station). Doors open at 7.45pm for an 8.30 start, tickets £10 on the door.

Posted 09:51 Friday, May 5, 2017 In: Music & Sound

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