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A night in Barnes

One of minor hazards of being a columnist for one of the great internet commercial successes of the 21st Century is that my friends and acquaintances are always badgering me for updates upon my attempts to survive in the world of modern technology.

[In which context, I hope that more occasional readers will forgive this slight diversion from the subject at hand as I reveal the denouement of my weekend feat of ‘seizing up’ my laptop by attempting to clean it with the sprays from a ‘computer cleaning kit’ that I had bought from a PC store a couple of years ago.

I wasn’t able to retrieve it from my local computer repair store until 5.00pm last night, whereupon I was given a suitably-complicated tale of indecipherable – to a non-tecky like me – guff to the effect that some of the inner workings had been destroyed by the fluid-influx and also affected by a virus (funny that – my laptop has a top-of-the-range anti-virus software package that, the last time it scanned on Thursday, gave my laptop an ‘all clear’) … but that happily they’d sorted it all … and that would be £75 plus VAT, please, thank you very much. So I now have my laptop back, admittedly looking sparklingly new, at a total cost of about £135. What have I leaned from this experience? Never clean your computer.]

Buoyed by getting my repaired laptop back, but decidedly hacked off at the cost of the experience, I was in need of a drink and a pick-me-up. I received both, courtesy of last night’s trip to the Bulls Heads in Barnes for the gig by pianist Ben Waters.

They’ve altered the Jazz Room (as it’s called) significantly from my last visit. Instead of climbing upstairs to reach it, they’ve spent some serious money on the back of the pub and now you go through a yard to a room that looks like just another bit of a yard with a roof on top and a small bar in the corner that wasn’t open for business. Well, not last night it wasn’t. I would guess it now seats about 120.

En route I’d run into one of those unexpected and seemingly inexplicable traffic snarl-ups to which London is sometimes prey as I travelled down the A316. The artiste and his entourage of one (his son Tom aged about 14 on sax) appeared to have similar issues – as we queued and then sat down, he suddenly appeared with an ongoing ‘Evenin’ all”-style patter whilst he carried in and set up all his own equipment.

Around 8.30pm the ‘concert’ kicked off. Waters is one of those stalwarts of the music and entertainment scene who just loves what he does, possesses no airs and graces and will play to an audience of 120 any night of the year that he has free. Mind you, he doesn’t have many – he’s off shortly on a two-week tour of Singapore, Australia and New Zealand and then, upon his return, sets off immediately for gigs in Austria.

With his infectious enthusiasm and undeniable brilliance as a boogie-woogie ivory-tickler, Waters can play anything and counts the Rolling Stones, Jools Holland and PJ Harvey amongst his many celebrity collaborators. The last couple of times I saw him, he was playing with a four piece band but this ‘solo’ gig was just as enjoyable.

Choosing eclectic pieces from way back, from the likes of Jelly Roll Morton and Louis Jordan, right up to the present day, Waters took the venue by storm. After well-received, rip-roaring, tsunami ride through slow blues, classic boogie-woogie, rock & roll and even classical ‘hits’ – aided by his son, a bit of a prodigy, and another local saxophonist Adam Davy – Waters concluded by inviting two local boogie-woogie players to join him on his electric piano, followed by a lady of a certain age who came on stage to give a thundering rendition of the Stones’ Honky Tonk Woman.

For an encore, he moved to a stand-up piano at the back of the room and gave us a wonderfully nuanced and almost delicate version of Fats Domino’s Walking To New Orleans – for me it was the highlight of the night. After it, the lights went up and we spilled out into the bitingly cold Barnes air and the short drive home.

See here for a little bit of what I’m talking about, a piece from a Waters gig at the Bulls Head a few years ago, as featured on YouTube –  DOWN THE ROAD A PIECE





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About Arthur Nelson

Looking forward to his retirement in 2015, Arthur has written poetry since childhood and regularly takes part in poetry workshops and ‘open mike’ evenings. More Posts