It's always a pleasure returning to an old favourite jazz club, and the Pizza in Soho has been one of my top favourite West End clubs for a very long time. What it is about the Pizza that makes it so attractive, I couldn't really put my finger on. Certainly, it's got a certain cozy intimacy and great atmosphere, and the outstanding, always welcoming and very friendly - and extremely hard-working! - staff come into it as well. It somehow always just feels like you're coming 'home' in a way.
And when there's an especially exciting act 'on the menu,' that pleasure is always doubled. Last night's offering, The Pete Roth Band, was exactly such an act. Roth had first come to my attention with his debut album, Meridian, released about a year ago, which I selected as 'Newcomer of the Year' for 2010.
The line-up has since slightly changed, with Gabor Dornyei taking over at the traps and with the addition of Terl Bryant on additional percussion. What an exciting change this proved to be! The double guitar front line of aces Pete Roth and Nicolas Meier remains, as does the very capable bass of Dave Suttle.
The new combination of the formidable Dornyei at the traps and the equally formidable Bryant on additional percussion - including some outstanding cajon - is nothing short of a stroke of genius by Roth. The excitement and tension that this combination generates is tremendous and provides the perfect counterfoil to Roth's (and Meier's) highly melodic guitar style.
Deservedly, this outstanding gig by The Pete Roth Band attracted a remarkably large crowd, especially so for a Monday night, and almost filled the Pizza. No mean feat, that, in itself.
Roth and his quintet kicked off the first set in style, with mainly some new arrangements of pieces from the Meridian album, and throughout both sets not only kept this up but constantly kept upping the ante.
The new compositions by Roth (and one by Meier) proved as delightful as the previous ones (new arrangements or otherwise), though perhaps there was a touch of even more advanced maturity and sophistication discernible in the former.
The guitars of both Roth and Meier were as flawless as ever and a sheer delight - two modern masters excelling. Suttle supported with great grooves in conjunction with the traps and percussion of Dornyei and Bryant respectively. The latter two frequently took the tension and excitement to fever pitch.
The outstanding ensemble playing was matched by superb and inventive soloing, led by the two lyrical guitars in their turns. They were exquisitely contrasted by the fireworks solos of Bryant and Dornyei respectively on percussion and traps. The often flamenco-informed music of Roth and Meier was often underlined by Bryant's superb cajon.
The Pete Roth Band combined lyrical, often almost haunting beauty with a near palpable tension and excitement, resulting in an evening of sheer magic. I greatly look forward to their next album, which one can only hope won't be too far away.
In the meantime, catch this outstanding band live if you possibly can, you'll be certain to not regret it.
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