Jim Kirkpatrick (FM, Bernie Marsden Band, Heavy Weather etc) is a superb, versatile guitarist who I have no qualms describing as World Class. In particular he has a growing reputation as a slide player with good reason and is in constant demand as a session player. Live he has a repertoire of material that is endless, including two albums worth of his own penmanship, a growing number of writing credits with FM plus a specialist knowledge of the work of Jimi Hendrix and Rory Gallagher as well as an interminable number of classic blues and blues rock tunes up his sleeve. His fine trio Heavy Weather can track him on most of it. They comprise his long time drummer Neil ‘Keggsy’ McCallum (8 years with Climax Blues Band) and bassist Chris Cliff, who arrived on our local scene from a clear blue sky last year and blew us away. Keggsy, who has played with dozens of ‘name’ bassists rates him as the best of the bunch. I wouldn’t argue.
As a promoter I have worked with Jim over the last ten years at many venues and festivals with many line-ups of Heavy Weather and other incarnations including Bernie Marsden (Whitesnake) four times.
Around the time I moved the Bluefunk club’s operations to the fabulous Cabin 5150 in Macclesfield last year, I got wind that Jim and HW had just lost a residency due to the venue closing. It took me less than two seconds to decide to offer him a new residency (something I had never done before) with Bluefunk at the Cabin and about the same timelapse for him to say yes. Although the Cabin was new he had been in to see it and knew how fine it was.
He started for us in May 2013 (the Cabin opened in March) and continues to do the first Thursday of every month. Jim and HW have turned it into the ‘hot ticket’ in Macclesfield with ever growing audiences coming from further and further afield. Last week we had travelers from Shrewsbury, Derby, Leeds, Bolton and those were just the ones I spoke to.
Mind you last Thursday, 6th of March, was very special indeed.
Mindful of keeping his residency fresh and worth visiting repeatedly (many have yet to miss one), Jim and I had talked of inviting some ‘name’ guests to play with his band. He knows many personally and as a promoter so indeed do I.
It transpired that at a Hoax gig last December I was able to chat with Jon Amor, one of the two brilliant guitarists in that band. Having had the privilege of working with Jon with the Hoax and two of his own bands Amor and The Blues Group he was inclined to listen. When I asked would he like to join Jim at one of his Bluefunk sessions he was immediately receptive. He had never met Jim but knew his rep as a player and a further flurry of messages and emails in the New Year got the date fixed.
For me it could not come soon enough. Two of my favourite guitarists were going to collaborate of the cuff in the Cabin for Bluefunk. Stuff that dreams are made of, provided I could manage to sleep that is. Honestly I was like a kid at Christmas.
These guys are not only world class players they are diamonds as people, both consummate gentlemen without one whit of ego between them. They are both joys to work with.
The day arrived as did the players, Jon having driven up from Devizes, Wiltshire, arrived about 7.15pm. Doors would normally be around 8.30 but the punters were arriving from 7pm! Fortunately the Cabin has a piano bar downstairs which is proving to be an invaluable holding spot on these occasions.
The band and Jon were able to meet, set up and learn something about each other undisturbed, for about an hour. The mettle and quality of Heavy Weather came to the fore as during this time and whilst sound checking with the Cabin’s exceptional sound engineer (and co-owner) Elliot, they managed to learn five (!!) of Jon’s original compositions which they then played in the two sets they performed. This included ‘Even after That’, a song I adore, which Jon admitted when introducing it, HE had never played it live with a band before that night! He was visibly nervous when he started it but by the time it finished he was grinning like a Cheshire cat. No wonder really, Jim’s off the cuff slide work was superb and if anything enhanced the original, for me it was one of several highlights of the performance. What a band Heavy Weather is, we are so fortunate to have them.
Both of these guys can rock it up with the best of them as I have seen on many occasions and whilst they did on the occasional piece (eg Jon’s ‘Juggernaut’) for the most part it was a Master Class in how to blow people away playing blues with skill, taste and restraint without trying to inflict casualties. They both played with the utmost respect for one another which shone through their performances. They boxed and sparred occasionally but for the most part it was all about enhancing each others skills, it was delicious to watch.
They had never met previously but I suspect they left as good friends. Whilst it can never be the first time again I couldn’t live with myself if I did not try to bring them together for another show in the future. It was just too good.
We recorded the whole show and have been tinkering with the stems for a couple of days but haven’t yet heard even half of it. What I have heard is staggeringly good and proves I didn’t dream the whole thing, nor had I died and gone to heaven.
There is also video footage, none of which I have yet seen, so there are still treats to come off the back of what I expect will remain one of the best gigs I will see this year. I hope to post some of this media as it becomes available.
Jon’s performance makes it 3 of the 5 members of the Hoax that have performed at the Cabin in other bands. I live in hope but it is nice to get them in instalments anyway.
Jim won’t be at the Cabin next month as he is playing at the O2 Apollo in Manchester with FM, alongside Europe and Foreigner (he’s a big shot when we give him a night off). Nor will he be in on May 1st as he is on the European leg of their tour but he will be back on May 8th instead. Come and see him, meanwhile sign up to the mailing list using the contact form and we will keep you in the news loop. http://bluefunkclub.wix.com/blues#
(Bluefunkster is the Music Correspondent for the Macclesfield Express and the promoter at Bluefunk Rhythm and Blues Club. which is dedicated to bringing the very best live music of all genres to its area of operation.)