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Reviewers: Don Mather, Dick Stafford, Marc Bridle, John Eyles, Ian Lace, Colin Clarke, Jack Ashby




black box BBJ2022

Jim Mullen - guitar
Gareth Williams - piano, organ, Rhodes
Mick Hutton - bass
Gary Husband - drums
Recorded December 2000, London
1. One Song
2. Everybody Wants To Be A Cat
3. A Dream Is A Wish Your Heart Makes
4. I've Got No Strings
5. The Second Star To The Right
6. I'm Wishing
7. Baby Mine
8. Give A Little Whistle
9. You Can Fly!
10. With A Smile And A Song
11. When You Wish Upon A Star

Jim Mullen just seems to get better and better. There can be no denying his status as a world class performer, this has been abundantly obvious for several years now. He has the rare ability to turn any material into a personal statement. There is nothing wrong with his choice of songs here, as he himself says in the liner notes, " Walt hired the best artists and composers and right from the beginning the songs became popular hits."

What Mullen has managed to achieve on this album is to look at the tunes in a fresh manner and yet retain much of the inherent feeling of each selection without ever becoming glib, or worst still, sentimental. It would be difficult to single out particular tracks as the standard is uniformly high and the flow of inspiration and imagination from all concerned is unstinting. The other musicians make equal contributions and yet it cannot be denied that, in some strange way, this is very much a personal statement from the guitarist, reflecting the early memories he has of his childhood.

Mullen's tone is quite special - there are clear references to earlier players - Wes Montgomery seems the most prominent. The only current guitarist with the same sort of lyricism of sound and attack is, to my ears, Russell Malone. Even on the brighter tempos Mullen never loses this lucid quality and on the ballads his playing is highly moving. He has technique in abundance and has the maturity to use it sparingly and therefore most effectively.

I feel that the single factor that makes Jim Mullen stand out from so many of his contemporaies is that he has truly found his own voice and does not feel it necessary to ape his Trans-Atlantic counterparts. This is something very rare amongst European players and in achieving this he has joined such unique exports as John Surman and George Shearing. To play in this way takes a great deal of belief and courage.

I said earlier that it would be wrong to pick out tracks, but if anyone has any doubts about this release I would strongly recommend they listen to "Baby Mine" from "Dumbo" -perhaps not the most obvious source for great Jazz, but surprisingly effective. This is a great record - miss it at your peril !

Dick Stafford

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