Thumbnail Sketches

Album cover for Jim Mullen's Thumbnail Sketches

RNA 001 – “Thumbnail Sketches” – Jim Mullen

Cover painting by Norma Ricketts.

Cover image layout & design by Aurore Colson.

Recordings made by Mike Collins at his project studio in North London between April and December 1999.

How this album came about!

Jim Mullen has been a source of inspiration for me since I first saw him playing with Kokomo in the mid-70s at Dingwall’s in London. I remember seeing Jim playing at many gigs with the Morrisey Mullen band in the 80’s which turned out to be high-points of the London club scene, and I continued to check out Jim’s gigs and albums which moved into the Jazz genre throughout the 90s.

Then I bumped into Jim again in the spring of 1999 – playing guitar with Jimmy Smith at the Jazz Cafe. Jim was ‘dynamite’ at this gig – and even played two or three solo jazz guitar pieces in the break between Jimmy Smith’s sets.

I spoke with Jim after the gig and asked if he would teach me how to play ‘Danny Boy’, one of my Dad’s favourite tunes, in a solo jazz guitar style. The following week he turned up at my flat, guitar in hand, and showed me the tune. He explained that he did not regard himself as a teacher, even though he made a great job of teaching me this tune, but he noticed that I had a well-equipped project studio setup…

So the idea was born that I would record him playing a few solo pieces to listen to and learn from – and this grew into a series of sessions which we decided to develop as a complete album. Listen and enjoy….

Track Listing

1. I Can’t Get Started (Vernon Duke, Ira Gershwin)

2. Don’t Blame Me (Dorothy Fields)

3. Londonderry Air (Traditional arr. Jim Mullen) Danny Boy (Frederic Weatherly)

4. The Drinking Song (Sigmund Romberg)

5. Skylark (Johnny Mercer, Hoagy Carmichael)

6. Love Me Tender (Elvis Presley, Vera Matson)

7. Women Of Ireland (Seán Ó Riada)/Carrickfergus Variations (Traditional arr. Jim Mullen)

8. Some Other Time (Bernstein, Condon, Green)

9. Cinema Paradiso Love Theme (Ennio and Andrea Morricone)

10. Violets for your furs (Tom Adair, Matt Dennis)

11. Just In Time (Jule Stein, Betty Comden, Adolph Green)

12. When you wish upon a star (Washington, Harline)

13. My Ship (Kurt Weill, Ira Gershwin)

14. Sweet Lorraine (Mitchell Parish, Cliff Burwell)

15. Sister Sadie (Horace Silver)

16. Estate (B. Martino, B. Brighetti)

17. I’m A Fool To Want You (Woolf, Herron, Sinatra)

18. Give A Little Whistle (Washington, Harline)

19. Lucky to be me (Betty Comden, Adolph Green, Leonard Bernstein) WB

20. The Nearness Of You (Hoagy Carmichael, Ned Washington)

21. My love is like a red, red, rose (Robert Burns: Traditional arr. Jim Mullen)

22. Witchcraft (Carolyn Leigh, Cy Coleman)

23. Blue In Green (Miles Davis, Bill Evans)

24. In A Sentimental Mood (Duke Ellington, Irving Mills, Manny Kurtz)

Recording Information:


Jim played his Aria Pro II full-bodied jazz guitar – using the neck pickup set to a mellow tone.

Jim mostly played through my mid-70s Ampeg VT22 2 x 12 guitar combo amplifier, although he used my early-60s black-faced Fender Vibrolux Reverb 2 x 10 combo amplifier on a few selections.

I placed one microphone a couple of inches from the speaker cabinet, using a Shure Unidyne III or an AKG C414, and positioned an AKG C12 VR or a C414 microphone about 12 inches away from the front of the guitar to catch some of the acoustic and room sound.

The microphones were recorded via a Yamaha 02R digital mixer to the left and right channels of a Studer D780 DAT recorder.

Later I transferred these to Pro Tools to balance the two channels and add EQ, compression and reverb – using a Focusrite D2 EQ TDM plug-in, a Waves Rennaissance Compressor, and a TC Electronic M3000 reverb.

A little background hiss which can be heard occasionally is actually coming from the Ampeg guitar amplifier – not from the recording process, which was all-digital after the microphone pre-amplifiers.

Mike Collins © 2011

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