This month sees the annual Ipswich Jazz Club blues night which is run in conjunction with BBC Radio Suffolk. The event has a rich history stretching back to the days the club held their sessions at The Manor Ballroom in Ipswich town centre. I have very fond memories of the very first one. It starred the UK’s Queen Of The Blues – singer Dana Gillespie. Dana’s career began in the mid-1960s when she became a close friend of David Bowie. She went on to guest on some of his recordings and signed to the MainMan management company, releasing a couple of albums which until earlier this year had been out of print for many years. The good folk at Cherry Red Records put that right with a wonderful set of all her MainMan recordings which now takes pride of place in my collection of Dana Gillespie recordings.
Among the many Dana Gillespie albums I own are her releases on the Blue Horizon label, the recording company established by producer Mike Vernon initially to release the work of a young British blues band by the name of Fleetwood Mac. The rest, as they say, is history. Mike went on to become one of the most important figures in the history of British blues and some fifty years later that reputation remains fully intact. In recent times, his production work for other acts has been put on the backburner to allow him time to concentrate on his own project – Mike Vernon and the Mighty Combo.
Singer Mike is based in Spain these days, but he shows no sign of putting his feet up. Admittedly, he’s not as busy as he used to be, but he continues to make his mark on his favourite music genre. The first incarnation of The Mighty Combo featured Spanish musicians, but it didn’t take long for Mike to realise that his own project had the potential to reach a Europe-wide audience. A few years ago, Mike assembled an all-star band of mostly British blues musicians and if you saw their triumphant show at Ipswich’s New Wolsey Theatre you’ll know how good they were.
Since then Mike has reshuffled his pack slightly. Guitarist Kid Carlos, keyboards player Matt Little and saxophonist Paul Tasker remain but the Mighty Combo now has a new rhythm section in the shape of Bernie Fox (drums) and Orlando Shearer (bass). Together they perform jump blues of the highest calibre and bring their show to Suffolk’s county town on Sunday, January 19.
Following the success of last January’s IJC/BBC Radio Suffolk blues night starring California’s Rick Estrin and the Nightcats, the jazz club are again selling tickets in advance from their website (www.ipswichjazzclub.co.uk). You can buy them from there for £18 or you can pay on the night when admission will be £20.
I’m the first to admit Rick Estrin’s incredible performance at the beginning of 2019 will take some beating but I’m confident the revitalised Mike Vernon and the Mighty Combo will be every bit as good.
I’ll be your MC for the night, so I very much hope to welcome you to The California Club on Foxhall Road on the third Sunday of this month. It will be Ipswich’s first high profile gig of 2020 and looks set to raise a very high bar for the rest to follow.