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Five-Way Split

All The Way

by Ian Mann

April 12, 2023


The album features a series of intelligent originals written in the bebop / hard bop tradition plus a couple of well chosen covers. The standard of the playing is excellent throughout.

Five-Way Split

“All The Way”

(Ubuntu Music – UBU0129)

Quentin Collins – trumpet, flugelhorn, Vasilis Xenopoulos – tenor & soprano sax, Rob Barron – piano, Matyas Hofecker – double bass, Matt Home – drums

Five-Way Split is a new, all star quintet co-led by trumpeter Quentin Collins, saxophonist Vasilis Xenopoulos and pianist Rob Barron. The line up is completed by bassist Matyas Hofecker and drummer Matt Home.

The co-leaders all lead their own projects and are also in great demand as sidemen, as are the rhythm team of Hofecker and Home.

The London based quintet first came together in the summer of 2020 at the height of the pandemic, a time that the band members describe as “when performance opportunities were scarce, but creative energy was strong”. A slight easing of the Covid restrictions allowed them to gather at Home’s house for a lockdown jam, the group members rapidly establishing a rapport that has eventually led to a more permanent alliance and the recording of this album.

Their shared love of hard bop initially saw them playing material by composers such as Jimmy Heath, Cedar Walton, Horace Silver, and Fred Lacey, with Art Blakey’s Jazz Messengers and Silver’s quintet being acknowledged as particularly important sources of inspiration.

Having honed their sound playing classics from the hard bop canon Collins, Xenopoulos and Barron began to bring their own compositions and arrangements to the quintet’s repertoire, still essentially writing within the classic hard bop template. Recorded in October 2021 and released in March 2023 the band’s début album “All The Way” features seven original compositions from members of the band plus a Barron arrangement of Jimmy Van Heusen’s title tune and the quintet’s interpretation of Fred Lacey’s “Theme for Ernie”.

The album commences with Xenopoulos’ “Out of Wayne’s Bag”, the title presumably a homage to the since departed Mr. Shorter.  An intricate but highly melodic theme,  one that Shorter himself might have been proud of,  features some assured and cohesive ensemble playing. The band members then diverge to deliver fluent individual statements, with Collins going first on trumpet, followed by the composer on tenor and finally Barron at the piano.

The title Barron’s own “Lingua Franca” references the quintet’s shared hard bop language and very much speaks in that tongue with the horn men getting their chops around some tricky, darting melodic phrases. As the music gathers momentum Hofecker and Home provide an admirable rhythmic impetus, this providing the necessary propulsion for energised but highly lucid solos from Collins, Barron and Xenopoulos. Home also enjoys a series of lively drum breaks as he trades ideas with the saxophonist.

Collins’ “Mr Birthday Waltz” slows things down a little and features the composer on flugel. The impressive Hofecker is featured for the first time with a melodic double bass solo while Collins and Xenopoulos, on what sounds like soprano sax, demonstrate their gentler side. That said there’s still plenty of energy about this performance, particularly during the rousing final section.

Barron’s inventive arrangement of “All The Way” filters the tune through a hard bop prism in a sophisticated and swinging arrangement that includes more impressive ensemble playing allied to powerful individual statements from Xenopoulos on tenor and Barron on piano.

Collins’ “Asymphonatic” is an imaginative composition that adds a subtle Latin flavour to the group’s music and includes some intricate ensemble playing alongside the contrasting solo statements of the thoughtful Collins, on flugel, and the more forthright Xenopoulos on tenor, with Barron providing intelligent interjections from the piano.

Barron’s Evidently” kicks off with a drum salvo from Home, leading to a tricky bebop style ‘head’, this followed by barnstorming solos from Collins on trumpet, Xenopoulos on tenor and the composer on piano. All demonstrate that they have technique to burn, their solos fuelled by the sure footed rhythmic propulsion provided by Hofecker and Home. The drummer also enjoys an extended solo feature on a piece that is surely destined to become something of a live favourite. Five-Way Split recently performed a highly successful gig at Clun Valley Jazz in the small Shropshire town of Bishop’s Castle. Unfortunately I wasn’t able to attend on that particular occasion, but I have heard great things about the performance from those that were there.

Following the bustling energy of Barron’s tune is Fred Lacey’s ballad “Theme for Ernie”, which the quintet approach with great sensitivity, Home deploying brushes throughout. Collins on flugel and Xenopoulos on tenor demonstrate their capabilities as ballad players and Barron displays similarly lyrical qualities at the piano. Meanwhile Hofecker contributes another delightfully melodic bass solo.

Xenopoulos’ “San Sebastian” has a suitably warm, Latin-esque flavour and combines an engaging theme with cogent solos from the composer, Collins and Barron, with Home also featuring prominently.

The album concludes in classic hard bop fashion with Collins’ “Flattening The Curve”, a delightfully swinging confection that sounds as if it could have come directly from a classic Blue Note album. A punchy theme is followed by fluent solos from Xenopoulos on tenor, Collins on trumpet and Barron on piano, with bassist Hofecker also providing an enjoyable cameo.

Although there’s nothing particularly new or radical here Five-Way Split have attracted a considerable degree of critical and public acclaim for their début recording and for the quality of their live shows. As alluded to previously I would imagine these to be highly exciting affairs.

The album itself features a series of intelligent originals written in the bebop / hard bop tradition plus a couple of well chosen covers. The standard of the playing is excellent throughout, as one would expect from this quintet of experienced professionals. Engineers Darren Williams, Andrew Tulloch and Peter Beckmann help to ensure that everybody sounds good and collectively they play an important role in the album’s success.

Five-Way Split are a band with the potential to appeal to a broad jazz listenership, and particularly to fans of Blakey, Silver and the hard bop genre in general.

Future live dates include;

9 May – Pizza Express Jazz Club, Soho, London (album launch)

21 July – Battersea Jazz Festival

19 August – 606 Club, London

23 August – Fleece Jazz

19 September – Fleet Jazz Club

24 September -  Imber Court, East Molesey

6 October – Bracknell Jazz

7 October – Bear Club, Luton

13 October – Riverside Barn, Walton-Upon-Thames

20 October – Chichester Jazz

31 October – Oxford Jazz Society

Album available from;


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