I was reunited with Hungarian violinist, Zoltan Lantos, last week at The 606 Club's Anglo-Hungarian Festival. It brought back happy memories of Iwalewa-Haus in Bayreuth, where we met back the 90's at a meeting of musicians curated by the renowned anthropologist and scholar Ulli Beier.
Ulli had lived and worked for many years in Nigeria, Australia and Papua New Guinea where he studied, documented and celebrated indiginous art. Later in life Ulli set up Iwalewa Haus as a gallery and work space for contemporary artists from Africa and beyond. It was in this space that Ulli initiated the 'Grenzüberschreitungen' (Border Crossings) Festivals in the 1990s bringing together musicians from all continents for a week's residency. On the last day we played to a full house at the magnificent, baroque Margravean Opera House.
I attended six or seven of the festivals and they helped to expand my musical world. I forged great relationships many of which still continue today. The music was always a challenge, bringing together such diverse characters and disciplines, but the concerts were fantastically received.
Ulli's son Tunji studied percussion in India and Nigeria and we performed many concerts together. Each year we would visit the Staffelstein Therme Baths near the Czech border - I can still picture Randy Weston and John Parricelli sitting in the sauna receiving instructions from a spa matron with a clip board!
Steve took over running the original 606 club in 1976 in a cellar the size of a shoebox below Christopher Wray's lighting shop in the Kings Road. It was a quintessential Jazz club, a hub frequented by freaks, dandies, gangsters, artists and of course musicians of all ages. The old place was a health and safety nightmare and the club eventually outgrew its space so Steve moved it to the larger and now legendary current address in Lots Road 25 years ago.
It was at the 606 that I beheld the first and most camp cabaret pianist (Larry) I have ever seen and learned to stay up all night.
Once at about 2am I got up to play a duo with John Taylor and I asked him what he wanted to play? "lets start in D and see where we end up" he replied. I woke up in my bedsit in Clapham the following lunchtime to see something I'll never forget - a jazz legend crashed out on my floor!
The scene of so many memorable musical occasions, 'the 6' grew from strength to strength to become the most important, well loved and welcoming club of its kind for musicians and listeners, bar none.
And on Wednesday 29th May I'll be playing with my quartet 'Anorak' as part 12 days of celebrations to mark 25 years at the current address.
This all-star night presents four fantastic bands on the same bill (also appearing are groups led or co-led by Gwilym Simcock, Kit Downes, Mark Lockheart and John Parricelli).
It is going to be an unforgettable night - so please come and join us! More details on The 606 website.
Like I said - he's either mad or both!
Thank you to Steve and everyone who works so hard to make The 606 so special.