|Peter Jones – with Vasilis Xenopoulos (left, on flute)|
(Jazz Café Posk, Hammersmith, August 26th 2017. Review by Andrew Cartmel)
Out of a sweltering August Saturday night and into the cool and dark of a classic Jazz Cellar — Café Posk at the Polish Centre in Hammersmith. We’re here for the launch of the new album by singer (and LJN contributor) Peter Jones. Musically speaking it’s a lavish affair, featuring what will shortly be revealed as the jaw-dropping abilities of the quintet in support of Peter.
They open with Island Honey, which features a rolling tropical pulsation and the flute of Vasilis Xenopoulos floating on top, interweaving with Peter Jones’ light, tight, effortless vocals. Roger Beaujolais’ ringing, cascading vibes, Davide Mantovani’s virile, reverberating bass and the pulsing cymbals of Davide Giovannini unite to support Peter as he puts the song across. On Doggerland Neil Angilley’s lyrical piano introduction, along with subliminal bass and cymbal shimmers, set the stage for Peter’s quietly potent and touching vocal, painting the colours of loss and heartache. Angilley plays skirling scales and chiming chords, like climbing a staircase that keeps slipping out from under him, in a movingly adroit and poetic piano solo.
Beaujolais and Xenopoulos return for Baby and Hog. Davide Mantovani is on electric bass now, projecting a big and sustained sound. Neil Angilley has moved to electric piano and his playing is tightly integrated with the rock-solid, stuttering thump of Davide Giovannini’s drums. Angilley is conjuring a silvery funk from the keyboards. The dancing finesse of Vasilis Xenopoulos’s flute hands off to the emphatic flight of Roger Beaujolais’ vibraphone. They are a sophisticated, high precision unit and Peter Jones’ wry, wistful vocal is the ghost that haunts this beautifully built house.
As arresting as he is on flute, Vasilis Xenopoulos primarily plays a mean sax. On 1969 his tenor is casually hip, with a gossiping virtuosity as Roger Beaujolais’ vibes evoke an exotica backdrop. Neil Angilley’s electric keyboards provide a superlative, piercing flow of melody. Peter Jones rides on the beat with relaxed, perfectly paced vocals. Every Day I Hear More Bad News sees Angilley sitting out. Xenopoulos’ tenor plays concise bebop fills and then comes to the fore like a taxi horn cutting through traffic before blossoming into full song. Davide Mantovani is back on upright bass and his playing is linked like a conjoined twin to Beaujolais’ vibes.
Remember Summer begins with Davide Giovannini’s drums showing both restraint and unstoppable power. Vasilis Xenopoulos’ flute circles delicately over them like a bird above a stampede. Neil Angilley on electric keyboards cooks up a storm. Back on tenor for Your Secrets, Xenopoulos playing is like slabs of velvet before he gives us a snatch of a Sonny Rollins calypso tribute, followed by a stream of effortlessly fluent quotations. Neil Angilley’s acoustic piano is gravely eloquent, bringing us back down to earth with dancing runs. He ends the piece by reaching into the body of the piano to cheekily pluck the strings.
This was a sizzling blast-off for Peter Jones’ new album Under the Setting Sun (Howlin’ Werewolf HW003), which consists entirely of his original songs written with Trevor Lever. No singer songwriter could have asked for more effective backing than he received. The five musicians formed a seriously impressive unit — all the more so since Davide Mantovani and Roger Beaujolais had never played in Peter’s band before tonight. It was a privilege to hear them, but anyone who missed the gig can explore the songs on the CD, and should do so with alacrity.