Live reviews

Five-Way Split – ‘All The Way’ album launch at Pizza Express Live 

Five-Way Split (Quentin Collins, Rob Barron, Vasilis Xenopoulos, Mátyás Hofecker, Matt Home)

(Pizza Express Dean Street. All The Way album launch 9 May 2023. Live Review by Gareth Thomas)

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Five-Way Split. Publicity photo

Soho’s Pizza Express Dean Street – sold out in advance for this album launch – is perhaps the ideal setting for a group like Five-Way Split: the dimly lit basement restaurant packed with small tightly arranged tables feels like a picture-postcard example of a classic “cool jazz club” – perfect for a band that keep its hard bop influences so close to its heart. 

Five-Way Split was formed in 2020 between Quentin Collins (trumpet), Rob Barron (piano),  Vasilis Xenopoulos (saxophone), Mátyás Hofecker (double bass) and Matt Home (drums). Three years on, the band has released its debut album, All The Way (Ubuntu Music) – which made up most of the material for its Pizza Express gig. 

The band kicked off with “Out of Wayne’s Bag”, a tribute to the late Wayne Shorter, establishing a style that remained prominent throughout the night. Hard bop influences from the likes of Art Blakey, Horace Silver and Lee Morgan were more than obvious (even the album cover is reminiscent of Reid Miles’ designs for Blue Note throughout the 50s and 60s), with flowing bluesy improvisations abound. 

For the most part, Five-Way Split has no leader. As Barron described it (jokingly yet in earnest), the group is a “democracy”, with all tracks being written “for the band”. I don’t doubt this, for no one could be said to steal the limelight throughout the night. There were standout moments from every member of Five-Way Split – not only from Collins, Barron and Xenopoulos – but also Hofecker (who enjoyed a notably prominent double bass solo on “Mr Birthday Waltz”) and Home with some thunderous drum fills and solos (again, the Blakey comparison here is clear).

Five-Way Split is a group that rarely strays too far from its roots in hard bop, post bop and the New York contemporary bop scene. Sure, there might not necessarily be any stylistically ground-breaking stuff in this, but the band’s gig at Pizza Express Live was certainly enjoyable and engaging. 

LINK: Five Way Split at Ubuntu Music

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