Bickley jazz pioneer Joe Mudele “was liked by everyone”

PUBLISHED: 13:40 28 April 2014 | UPDATED: 13:45 28 April 2014

Joe and his wife Janet, who will continue to run Bexley Jazz Club in Bexley High Street. Photo credit: Andy Barnes

Joe and his wife Janet, who will continue to run Bexley Jazz Club in Bexley High Street. Photo credit: Andy Barnes


The wife of Joe Mudele – a pivotal figure within modern jazz – has spoken publicly of the admiration she held for husband after his passing last month.

Joe was born in Downham, south-east London. Photo credit: Andy BarnesJoe was born in Downham, south-east London. Photo credit: Andy Barnes

Joe, who died aged 93, was one of the most valued session players on double bass during the 50s and 60s, but he would go on to revive the Bexley Jazz Club in Bexley High Street later in life.

“As a husband he was a very, very lovely man. He had a lovely sense of humour and was extremely kind,” Janet Mudele, of Bickley, tells the Times. “These are the things I miss about him.”

Speaking about his playing exploits, his wife of 23 years says: “His whole life was music and that was what he lived for.

“He was liked by everyone in music because of his dedication, professionalism and talent.”

Joe grew up in Downham, south-east London, and left school at 14. His first job was as a singing pageboy at the cinema.

He finally got his break in 1946 when he began playing professionally.

Within a year he was a member of the Tito Burns Sextet – a band singled out for the role they played in developing bebop, a jazz sub-genre.

Quite an achievement considering he not only survived the war years, but he had also stumbled across an old double bass in a bicycle shop and felt compelled enough to put down a deposit. An impulse he could never quite explain.

“Joe stumbled on a music career almost by accident but he really made a success of it,” adds Mrs Mudele.

As a session musician, the double bass player worked with the likes of Barbra Streisand, Frank Sinatra, Jack Jones and the Beatles to name just a few.

Joe was asked to take over Bexley Jazz Club in 2004 when owner Les Simons died – the move was a smart one for both parties. Joe’s friends in the industry gravitated towards his kind and generous nature. The club, in turn, needed a revival in the face of modern musical trends.

Under Joe and Janet’s watch, the club never looked back. Speaking to the Times two years ago, before his death, Joe said: “Great jazz, played to a knowledgeable and friendly audience, results in superb entertainment and will always thrive and prosper. These are the ingredients we have at Bexley Jazz Club.”

Mrs Mudele, who admirably assisted Joe with the club up until his passing, has taken up the baton since Joe’s passing in March.

“He absolutely loved the club,” she says. “He wanted me to carry it on. I want to keep it going as it has done and make it even more successful and keep the standard as high as possible.

“When he and I took over the club 10 years ago it was a special club and the competition was great but the standard rose tremendously when he took over.”

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