The Jim Mullen Organ Trio plays Chichester’s Chichester Inn on the back of their fifth album, Catch My Drift which was released at the end of January.
Bringing together three of the leading jazz exponents in the UK, the trio lines up Jim alongside Mike Gorman on organ and Matt Skelton on drums (Wednesday, April 9; tickets on 01243 783185).
“The organ trio has been going for the last eight years. There has been the odd personnel change, but we have been together for the past five years as we are, as a regular trio,” Jim says.
“The whole point is that the organist is playing the bass part as well as the chordal part. Organ trios happen because of the economics. Because the organist is playing two roles really, the bass and the accompanying chords, it means that you have got three guys doing the work of four.
“But really, I like to think of it as our little big band. The organ has such a range of dynamics that when the three of us are in full flow, you don’t feel like you are listening to a trio.
“I grew up on blues and funk, and there is also jazz in there, and it is all a little bit of that mixture. I always like to play groove-related music. It’s not ethereal floating-in-and-out-type music. It is very earthy music, and people respond to it in a really natural way. It seems to connect to quite a wide range of audiences.”
And for Jim, part of the pleasure has been in seeing how it all progresses as they move from one album to the next: “I suppose the analogy is a football team. A team will play a lot better together when they get to know each other and have been playing together for a long time.”
He certainly has huge regard for the other two thirds of the trio – products of today’s excellent music education opportunities.
“I do outside assessments at some of the music colleges in London, the Royal Academy, the Guildhall and so on, and they all have jazz courses. There are young musicians still studying at college who are absolutely astounding. The guys in my band are graduates.
“That kind of thing wasn’t available to me. When I grew up in Scotland, those opportunities didn’t exist. I really learnt virtually learnt my trade on the bandstand. There was a shortage of players, and you just got the chance.
“But the young guys now are meant to be better than the old guys. The people teaching them are really good teachers, and they are bringing on these young musicians at a rate of knots. They are on a really steep learning curve. They learn in two years what it took me 20 years to learn on the band stand! And they learn all the different styles. They become very versatile musicians.”
As for the album, the title, Catch My Drift, is Jim’s way of saying how things should be done, a harkening back to the days when you would go into the studio and do what came to you, rather than endless pre-planning.
“I was thinking about the fact that my favourite albums are the ones where someone goes into the studio and decides what they want to do there and then. They pick out their favourite tunes of the moment. Those records are fabulous and last for ever. Now, with the big labels, it is like the men in suits, often not musicians themselves, tell the musicians what their next concept will be!”