Bexley jazz man hitting the right tone
PUBLISHED: 16:26 25 October 2012
After 20 years of success, Bexley Jazz Club is still going strong - thanks in no small part to its 92-year-old master of ceremonies.
Joe Mudele is something of a legend in jazz circles, and the bassist puts his heart and soul into music nights every Monday.
He followed in his father’s (also called Joe) footsteps and formed his first band aged 16.
To his great relief Joe was able to keep up playing the bass during his service with the Royal Air Force throughout the Second World War, which he admits helped him keep his sanity.
Following his release after the war, he worked as a roofer while playing part-time in a dance band at Eltham Studios before getting his first professional job in 1947.
He said: “Part of getting my big break as a professional was luck, being in the right place at the right time. I got that and never looked back.”
From the 1950s to 1980s, Joe was one of the most in-demand session musicians in the country, working with the likes of Barbara Streisand, Frank Sinatra, Jack Jones and The Beatles – he played bass on the iconic track Penny Lane.
Of the Bexley Jazz Club, he says: “I’d been playing at the club since it started but when the owner, Les Simons, died in 2004 I was asked to carry on running it. It was a great honour.
“Great jazz, played to a knowledgable and friendly audience, results in superb entertainment and will always thrive and prosper. These are the ingredients we have at Bexley Jazz Club.
“There’s no money in it for me anymore. I do it for the love of the music – that’s where my motivation comes from.”
Joe has been married to second wife Janet since 1991, and she has been supportive of his music and the running of the club as the years have passed.
Janet, 74, said: “He has great talent, dedication and professionalism.
“Even at 92 years of age he is still a lot more than just memories.
“Joe has always been rated as one of the country’s supreme bass players and is still incredibly busy on the jazz and gig scene.”
Joe, who lives in Bickley, celebrated his 90th birthday by releasing his first CD as a vocalist and shows no signs of letting up.
He has had quite a life in the music world, without ever gaining a formal music qualification – the closest Joe came was with two years of music lessons just after the Second World War from James Merritt, then lead bass player of the Philharmonia Orchestra.
He only has two regrets.
“A musical college education would have been wonderful.
“But my main lasting regret is that so few people truly appreciate or understand the immense talent of the very best modern jazz soloists.
“But there is a resurgence of the great songs, thanks to people like Michael Bublé and Jamie Cullum, and I get the feeling more youngsters are starting to listen to them.”
For more information on Bexley Jazz Club visit www.bexleyjazzclub.org.uk. It takes place every Monday at 8.30pm in the King’s Head, Bexley Village.