Overcoming necrotising fasciitis

Contemporary jazz guitarist Jim Mullen brings his organ trio to Shoreham's Ropetackle on Saturday, February 3.

Jim Mullen
Jim Mullen

It’s an important gig for Jim – and not just because he loves playing the south coast where he always gets a great response from audiences.

It’s important for Jim as the date comes as part of his convalescence and comeback after enduring the horrors of necrotising fasciitis, a condition which put him out of action for six months.

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“I was supposed to be doing this particular gig in Shoreham last year but I had to put it off.

“I had what they call the flesh-eating bug, one of these bugs that goes around for no rhyme or reason. I met somebody that caught it while gardening. They got a thorn in their flesh or something.

“I also met somebody that was a scaffolder who caught it.

“I think I got it when I was particularly run down after quite a lot of touring. I came back to the UK and my wife and I got quite bad flu.

“And then I got this. I was completely out of action for about six months. It was a very tough year. I wasn’t able to play and I wasn’t able to earn.

“There is an organisation called Help Musicians UK which was able to help me pay bills, and musicians in London held a benefit for me. I was able to start getting back to it slowly. I am now fully engaged.

“One of the problems with necrotising fasciitis is that it eats your skin.

“The surgeon that operated on me told me that I might die during the operation, but all that happened was that he saved me and took all the skin off from my knee down to my foot, and I had to have a skin graft.

“They moved me to another hospital where there was specialised plastic surgery. I am now able to get around. I can walk. I still have to attend the hospital for dressings, but I think it will be a few months until I am fully back to normal.

“But yes, it was a difficult year, especially not being able to play.

“But my wife and friends were great supports. She is a musician as well, and she helped me through.

“My wife is a singer, and I started doing a few little things with her band, not too much with my own group, but I am pleased to say that I am able to be much more active now.”

And so it is his trio that Jim brings to Shoreham.

“Organ trios have been a big part of jazz for many years, but usually they have been bluesy, gospel, r&b area music. It was very much music that came out of the church. Organ trios were part of black church music, and guys like Jimmy Smith took that style and put a beat behind it.

“But we decided that we wanted to take a much more contemporary approach which is more like what quartets are doing with piano, bass, drums and sax.

“We have got guitar and organ and drums. With the organ, he is playing the bass parts in the lower manual and also the accompanying chords.

“He is doing two jobs and just getting the one pay packet! Usually you would have double bass, but the organ is a much bigger, fatter kind of noise. It gives a much more dynamic range. We have got a very flexible unit.

“And the drums are really the engine room in a sense. All the energy and the drive come out of the drums, and we play into that.

“This trio has been going for about ten years now, and we have got four CDs. We have had a couple of changes of personnel, but it is a great line-up now.”