In a once industrial, but now fashionable, part of Chelsea sits a basement jazz venue-cum-restaurant just dripping with clichs. If you are prepared to take a chance and step beyond the murky facade, a cellar full of delights awaits you.
It is so easy to jump to the wrong conclusions. As I trod uneasily down the steel staircase into Club 606 I found myself entering what seemed to be a cross between a storeroom, cloakroom and a security office. Just what was this place? As entrances go I wasn’t in the least inspired or encouraged but it did at least give me the overwhelming curiosity to see what may lay beyond.
I emerged into the main club area, a low ceiling affair, decorated in reds, browns and creams, but coated by the stains of years of cigarette smoke. The paintwork is splintered and the furniture battered. Framed cartoons and primitive murals of Jazz legends emblazon the walls and the floor-level stage is a mass of cables as dangerous as trip wire. The fire exits seemed unclear and with candles on the tables, you just sensed that health and safety clearance must have been marginal at best. However, to call this place shabby and dangerous would be to miss the point this was an exciting place to be and I just loved it.
The club began life in the early seventies as a modest 30-seater venue at 606 Kings Road – hence the name. Despite rave reviews today for its cuisine, the catering has apparently not always been so palatable. I was told that the food at the original 606 was dire and complaints were commonplace if ill-advised. On one memorable occasion the chef swatted a customer with a frozen fish for daring to question his abilities in the kitchen.
The extensive menu tonight, however, featured grilled goats cheese salad with pecan nut, chilli and honey sauce served on ciabatta bread, which I followed with grilled wild boar sausages with apple chutney. All agreed that despite the array of competing flavours, they worked together a treat and we were all left eager for more.
The entertainment was provided by the band Samara and guest vocalist Vanessa Haynes who you knew instantly was going to be sensational. Her beautiful jet black hair framed a stunning face, smile and a perfect set of pearly white teeth.
Fronting the musical side of the group was saxophonist, and Club 606 owner, Steve Rubie. A very talented man with the impressive ability to lure top class musicians to his club. You knew you were in the presence of quality when you discover that, between them, the band had worked with Sting, Whitney Houston, Geoff Beck, Vanessa Mae and Bill Withers to name but a few.
The first two numbers, Brazil and Favela, were an unfamiliar but heady mixture of Latin jazz. From then on the set list featured wildly differing interpretations of jazz standards and contemporary tunes such as Lovely Day, Walk On By, Midnight Hour and Don’t Worry About A Thing. During the second set the band performed more classics such as Sitting on the dock of the bay and a lengthy Aint No Sunshine that meandered this way and that during a relaxed outro. All were performed in a groove that just forced me, and the assembled guests, to smile.
At the end of the evening, with the sound of jazz still ringing in my ears, I made my way happy, grinning and a touch inebriated towards the exit. It had been a fabulous night out and it was clear to everyone that Club 606 is a very special place indeed. I demand that you go there at once!