Patrick Widdess reports on Nick Mulvey at CB2, Cambridge, on July 1st 2011


Nick Mulvey gave renowned jazz group Portico Quartet their distinct sound playing the hang drum, a modern percussion instrument he picked up by chance in Australia. Now he’s making distinct sounds of his own since leaving the group in May.
    He played one of his first solo shows to a packed basement at CB2. Exchanging the hang drum for a guitar he delivered a set of mostly new songs with intricate arrangements covering a range of styles. Nick absorbs musical styles both Western and African and the work of musicians including Paul Simon, Nick Drake and Ali Farka Touré like a sponge and squeezes them out into a style of his own.
    He seemed tense for the first few songs delivering each line with careful precision, intently working the fret board. He seemed to be playing several parts at once with complex finger picking, harmonics and glissandos.
    Later he relaxed allowing everyone to be carried away by the music, carried away down the melodic river that accompanied the dreamy Elsa Craig. Sang in soothing tones this song that referenced the Mill Pond in Cambridge was reminiscent of early Pink Floyd. It was hard to believe it had only been written in the last six months.
    Other songs were influenced by the African music Nick has been interested in since studying at the School of Oriental and African Studies (SOAS) in London. He clearly enjoyed sharing this passion and singing again. His confidence grew with each number.
    Towards the end of the set he was joined by friend Pete Naughton and they sang a couple of covers. The audience clapped along and it didn’t matter that it was a bit hit and miss with the words and timing. This was a homecoming gig with many friends in the audience. For the critics he had proved he had plenty to offer as a solo musician and by the end of the evening everyone was enjoying the music together.
    Going solo was a bold decision for Nick but with an album’s worth of material performed at this early gig it looks like it was the right move. He is already planning a gig at the Junction 2 for later this year. This should be the least of his ambitions and it’s good news for those who couldn’t squeeze into CB2.

Writer: Patrick Widdess