The landlord behind the bar wearing a pork pie hat. A little rescue piano tucked away in front of him. Frank Sinatra on the pub’s sound system in raconteur mode telling anecdotes about Dino. A bunch of writers spotted drafting preparations for a play in a little spot by the bar. It’s not a bad way to first encounter north London pub the Griffin in Whetstone, under the new jazz-friendly regime. Pub jazz has been on the up since the licensing laws changed, and no better a spot than the Griffin at the Whetstone end of Totteridge Lane where the man behind the bar with the pork pie hat is landlord and trumpeter Matt Hope, an alumnus of Leeds College of Music. Besides calmly pulling frothing pints of Bombardier and the like alongside his small staff of attentive barmaids Hope has used his musician connections to establish a Sunday night session at the pub in recent weeks.
It was just after seven when the Finchley and Whetstone locals started to drift in for the latest running last night, where joining the house rhythm section of London taxi driver Steve Plumb on drums, Wally Shaw on bass, and Gareth Hunt, piano, was guesting trumpeter/flugel player Sid Gauld, an in-demand session player and arranger also known for his work with Delightful Precipice and Mark Lockheart.
The scene for the now established Sunday session had been set some weeks earlier with appearances by Finn Peters, Georgia Mancio, and Dave O'Higgins at the little playing space near the fireplace. The house trio generates a steady swinging pulse with material performed last night that included Mingus’ ’Nostalgia In Times Square’, and best of all, where Gauld really shone in terms of composure and tone, Thad Jones’ ’A Child is Born’ a tune you can also hear on Avishai Cohen's new album Almah released today. Jazz needs intelligent local sessions such as this initiative at the Griffin. Keep it local wherever you are. SG
Matt Hope above, the force behind the Griffin's Sunday sessions in Whetstone. Next week it’s Kevin Fitzsimmons accompanied by the house trio (16 February); and then saxophonist Frank Griffith, again with the trio, on 23 Feb.