606 Club with Caroline Loftus and Bryan Spring

Date January 26, 2010 | Map

Behind the unassuming door pictured below in the middle of West Bromptonian nowhere lies one of Europe’s finest Jazz clubs. The 606 Club got its name from its original location in 606 Kings Road, and it transferred its reputation and name to the new location in Lots Road, a residential area plus some industry such as the derelict Lots Road Power Station directly opposite, which is supposed to be turned into a shopping hub within the next three years.

606 Club Entrance, by rbeforee via flickr.com

606 Club Entrance, by rbeforee via flickr

This venue is a proper club, which in this case means that only members are allowed to have alcoholic drinks without a meal. And you can only become a member after three documented visits! All non-members must have something to eat with their drinks, unless they stick to soft drinks during the week. In addition to the meals, the club has a music charge, which is added per head to the bill. In return, the club offers quality jazz music every (repeat: every) night.

Tonight was my first time at this legendary club, and it did not disappoint, starting with the experience of entering the venue. Not only is the door so unassuming that you would not take notice if you were not in the know, but every guest has to ring a doorbell before a trellised gate buzzes open, clearing the way down a rough staircase into the lairs of the club. Inside the club, the decor is pretty much simplistic, with all attention focused understandably on the small stage.

Tonight’s bill featured singer Caroline Loftus and drummer Bryan Spring. Caroline Loftus hails from Australia, and she brought a few Australian singer friends, who took over the stage here and there. I don’t think this was coincidental, after all, today was Australia Day! The three singers were supported by a three-piece band, whose drummer was perhaps not very daring, therefore the pianist occasionally took a very skilled lead. Caroline’s second last song What Went Wrong With Our Song, whose recorded version on MySpace does not even come remotely close to the live experience, really went under the skin. Good stuff.

Bryan Spring, by andynew via flickr

Bryan Spring, by andynew via flickr

The Bryan Spring Trio was a completely different ballgame. Very unlike the soft, tender, song-oriented lounge jazz that the Australian women were offering; instead, the trio was quite aggressive and uncompromising in their complex jazz arrangements. And yes, the drummer was the centre of attention, probably a bit too much, as he often drummed his bandmates into acoustic oblivion. Extremely skillful, though, but this was certainly not Jazz for beginners. And while I usually enjoy such demonstrations of virtuosity, I must say that this was a bit too much of a contrast and difficult to follow, so I left early.

The food was quite ok: a modern British cuisine offered upmarket versions of some traditional pub dishes. My bangers and mash were nice, thanks to an interesting apple-enhanced gravy sauce. However, even though this is a proper restaurant, I cannot imagine people coming here for the food. It is the quality Jazz that draws.

And the music is taken serious by the audience. Dead serious. Our large birthday party group was obviously too loud for some of the other punters, and we got repeatedly told off for talking…well, ok, one should not talk too loudly while the music is on, but this is not a classical concert hall, and you are sitting at proper tables with plates in front of you, so I can’t see anything wrong with some light chatter. Just be warned to keep the volume down. And I fully understand and endorse the club’s policy to not allow hen or stag nights!

Overall, a really good Jazz experience. If this venue wasn’t so remote, I would return more often. And on any other day, I am sure I would not have to endure this Australian girl with a full VB-VB (Victoria Bitter sponsored vomit bucket) on the Overground on my way home.

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