Review:Xantone Blacq Presents... Manuela Panizzo at Pizza Express Dean Street

Xantone Blacq, Manuela Panizzo, Dean Black
Pizza Express Dean Street, March 2014
Photo Credit: Kelly LeValley 

Xantone Blacq Presents... Manuela Panizzo
Pizza Express Dean Street, 3rd March 2014. Review by Sebastian Scotney)

There's not much to say which can embellish this genuinely happy gig. It was the second in the series "Xantone Blacq presents" and the focus the limelight was on the Italian-born singer Manuela Panizzo. The format Xantone Blacq has evolved is to put other artists into the limelight. Blacq was directing and MD-ing, on piano, keyboards and backing vocals. The material was mostly from an album Don't Fall in Love with Me, (she previewed the gig for us) which has been getting quite a bit of airplay on JazzFM, and which Blacq has produced. Panizzo sang, played guitar, trumpet and piano, and invited guests to join her and the band.

Happiness starts with a great rhythm section. The quality and the energy of this team was evident within seconds. Not bland, but quality/ variety/ security/ joy propelling every beat. They are the kind of top-flight rhythm team which I was embarrassed to admit to be hearing for the first time, and to have to scurry around to check the name spellings. Bassist Dean Black, Cuban percussionist Raul and Michel Castellanos on drums just put an instant pep into the step of everyone in the room.

Moments I particularly treasured were the tune Troubles, with a Miles/ Tutu introduction in which Panizzo unleashed a sassy, punchy inner Etta James, and the much quieter If I Cannot Forgive in which Blacq on electronic keyboard does one of the things he does best - he does it in Jason Rebellos' band too -  which is to fill out a texture delicately, unobtrusively and quite magically.

The party vibe was helped by the procession of party guests onto the stage. Soprano saxophonist Richie Garrison blazed and produced a warm tone, alto saxophonist Dee Byrne soloed with great finesse and fluency. The biggest surprise I had was to discover that pianist Benet McLean is a very accomplished and compelling violin soloist (OK, who knew?) .

The next presentation in this series is Dee Byrne's Entropi on April 1st.

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