Winner of the Parliamentary Jazz Award for Best Media, 2019


Jonny Mansfield

Quartet! Live at Pizza Express

by Ian Mann

April 30, 2024


This is a band with an impressive collective rapport and a shared sense of adventure, resulting in some exhilarating collective improvising laced with dazzling individual solos.

Jonny Mansfield Quartet

“Quartet! Live at Pizza Express”

(Resonant Postcards RP002)

Jonny Mansfield – vibraphone, Will Barry – piano, Will Sach – bass, Luke McCarthy – drums

On 13th January 2024 I reviewed a live performance by vibraphonist and composer Jonny Mansfield at The Hive Music & Media Centre in Shrewsbury. The following night the band went into the Pizza Express Jazz Club in Soho, London a performance that is documented on this new limited edition live album.

My review of the Shrewsbury show can be found here and provides the basis for the following biographical details.

Huddersfield born, London based Mansfield is best known as a vibes player but also plays kit drums plus a variety of other instruments. His 2020 digital release “Portrait” was recorded over the course of a single day and features Mansfield playing all the instruments and also acting as recording engineer and producer. Made at the time of the pandemic it was the fulfilment of Manfield’s challenge to himself to create “an album in a day”.

Mansfield studied at Chetham’s Music School in Manchester and at the Royal Academy of Music in London. In 2018 he was the recipient of the Kenny Wheeler Jazz Prize, a prestigious award that helped to finance the recording of “Elftet” (Edition Records 2019), an ambitious and highly impressive album that featured his compositions for an eleven piece band featuring some of the UK’s finest young jazz musicians. Review here;

Prior to the album’s release I’d been lucky enough to catch Elftet at the 606 Jazz Club in Chelsea at the 2018 EFG London Jazz Festival. My decision to go and check them out had been spurred by guest contributor Trevor Bannister’s glowing account of an Elftet performance at the Progress Theatre in Reading earlier that same year. I think it’s fair to say that neither of us was disappointed by this prodigiously talented young band.

Equally proficient on vibraphone and kit drums Mansfield’s career to date has been divided between the two instruments. He is the drummer with the quintet Bonsai, the band formerly known as Jam Experiment, but doubles up on vibes on the group’s recordings, “Jam Experiment” (2017) and “Bonsai Club” (2019).  A 2019 live performance by Bonsai at the Hermon Chapel in Oswestry is reviewed here;

In addition to Elftet Mansfield also leads a jazz quartet that has, at various times, included the talents of pianists Will Barry and Noah Stoneman, bassists Will Harris and Will Sach and drummers Dave Hamblett, Boz Martin-Jones and now Luke McCarthy. Guest contributor Clive Downs reviewed a performance by one edition of this group at the Progress Theatre in Reading in September 2022.

For his most recent studio recording “The Air In Front Of You” (2023) Mansfield introduced a ‘chamber jazz’ quintet featuring featuring two string players, violinist Dominic Ingham and cellist Midori Jaeger. Will Sach fills the bass chair and James Maddren is behind the drum kit, allowing Mansfield to specialise on vibraphone. This adventurous and intriguing project is reviewed here;

“The Air In Front Of You” occupies a distinctive and innovative niche between the worlds of classical music and jazz. It’s a realm that is familiar to Mansfield who was commissioned to write a vibraphone and trombone duet for London Symphony Orchestra principals Neil Percy and Peter Moore. This was premiered at LSO St. Luke’s, London.

As a composer, he was also commissioned by Marsden Jazz Festival to write an hour-long suite featuring settings of poems by Simon Armitage, the Poet Laureate. This was recorded for a BBC Radio 3 Jazz Now broadcast and has subsequently been nominated for an Ivors Award for ‘Best Large Ensemble Jazz Composition’.

Mansfield has worked in groups led by his Bonsai band mates Rory Ingham (trombone) and his brother Dominic Ingham (violin). Other musicians with whom Mansfield has worked include flautist Gareth Lockrane,  saxophonists Chris Potter and Stan Sulzmann, keyboard player Kit Downes, vocalist Ella Hohnen-Ford and fellow vibraphonist / drummer Jim Hart.

He was also part of Gecko, a trio led by saxophonist Tom Smith that also featured pianist Will Barry. This line up released their eponymous debut album in a digital format for Basho Records in November 2020.

2023 saw Mansfield introducing a new version of his quartet featuring regular associates Will Barry and Will Sach alongside nineteen year old drummer Luke McCarthy, still a second year student at the Royal Academy of Music. Like Mansfield McCarthy doubles on drums and vibraphone – “he’s phenomenal” Mansfield told me after the Shrewsbury show, joking that “I only put him on drums to keep him off the vibes!”.

The Shrewsbury event was part of a short run of Arts Council supported shows that had also included recent gigs in Leicester and Brighton. These shows had seen the group honing their approach in a series of largely unbroken performances that saw them linking several tunes together as parts of lengthy segues, these sometimes forming an entire set. “It’s fun to weave them together”, explained Mansfield.

Naturally the same approach informed the London show, but with Mansfield choosing a very different selection of tunes to weave together. Only “Rival” and “Joy Tears” survived from the previous evening in Shrewsbury.

On his website the vibraphonist says of this new live recording;
“This album was recorded on the 14/01/24 at Pizza Express Soho, London. ‘Quartet! Live at Pizza Express’ came from the final gig of first tour as a quartet. The compositions were all brought to this line-up after being performed and recorded in different settings and minimal direction was given in terms of approaching the music, other than the requirement for improvisation to tie the pieces together, both logistically and conceptually. Both sets were performed as two uninterrupted bodies of music and this album is a combination of the two sets. the first three tracks - Flicker, Rival and (Organise) The Air in Front of You, are joined by improvisations, which allow for unfiltered interaction that continues into the compositions fuelling a whole new perspective on the material.‘Flicker’ and ‘(Organise) The Air in Front of You’ are from the 2023 album ‘The Air in Front of You’.‘Joy Tears’ is set for release on the upcoming sequel to ‘The Air in Front of You’, titled ‘Light Finds a Way In’.’‘Rival’ will be included in a duo album with pianist Ivo Neame”.

David Forman’s photograph on the album package actually depicts the quartet playing live at The Verdict Jazz Club in Brighton. Slip the disc into the CD player and there are five designated tracks, but as Mansfield states some of these actually segue into each other despite these apparent demarcations.

The opening piece “Flicker” was recorded on the “Air In Front Of You” album but appears in a very different form here, more rigorous and vigorous with its attractive melodic theme eventually acting as the jumping off point for some fiercely interactive collective improvisation. It’s relatively gentle at the start but the solos of both Mansfield and Barry generate an impressive head of steam as Sach and the outstanding young talent that is McCarthy stoke the rhythmic fires. As at Shrewsbury the quartet deploy a shrewd grasp of energy and dynamics as the music ebbs and flows, the dazzling solos of Mansfield and Barry building to fever pitch before subsiding. The main melodic theme is revisited towards the end of the track and the partnership between Mansfield and Barry sometimes reminds me of that of Gary Burton and the Japanese born pianist Makoto Ozone.

Still forming part of track one for demarcation purposes a delicate improvised episode featuring gently shimmering vibes and McCarthy’s deft cymbal work leads us into “Rival”, with track two beginning as the main theme is picked up. With McCarthy deploying brushes the intro is gentle and lyrical and leads to a dexterous bass solo from the impressive Sach, American born but now based in London. It’s an extended bass feature that draws generous applause from the crowd at the ‘Pizza’ and leads into a vibes solo from Mansfield as McCarthy switches to sticks and the energy and the momentum begins to build once more. It’s another virtuoso excursion from the leader that builds to a mallet driven climax before subsiding once again. A gentler vibes led passage then leads into a dynamic drum feature from McCarthy, not a drum solo as such but a wider part of the collective quartet performance. As the energy dissipates Barry takes over at the piano for a more thoughtful and lyrical section with the group in piano trio mode as Mansfield takes a step back.

The vibraphonist’s return marks the transition into “(Organise) The Air In Front Of You”. A delicate improvised opening sequence leads into the main theme, a memorable folk like melody initially sketched on the vibes that continues to weave in and out of the music as the energy and momentum again starts to increase. The energy subsequently dissipates as the music begins to ebb and flow and there’s a return to the piano trio format as Sach embarks on a lengthy solo, thoughtful and exact at first, more exuberant later on before eventually subsiding. A short bass passage provides the link into Mansfield’s solo, slow burning at first but subsequently upping the octane levels with another virtuoso display with the mallets. For all this the music never loses its sense of melody and the closing section is positively joyous and anthemic before quietly fading way. At first the audience are not totally convinced that the band have actually finished, but eventually they erupt into fully deserved applause.

The second sequence commences with “Joy Tears”, which is ushered in gently with a lyrical vibes and piano duet. McCarthy adds delicately brushed drums and cymbals and a piano led melodic theme eventually emerges with Sach joining on double bass as the leader’s vibes shimmer in the background. There’s a pastoral feel and also a song like quality about the music even as the momentum begins to build, with Mansfield’s vibes now coming to he fore. By the standards of the Mansfield quartet this is a relatively short performance and when the track cuts out one senses that this is an edited version and that the piece was actually longer on the night.

There’s a definite gap between “Joy Tears” and the closing “REM Song”. Whether the title represents a homage to Michael Stipe and co. I couldn’t say but it’s a fine piece of music nonetheless. Commencing with a brief flurry of solo vibes, soon joined in dialogue by McCarthy’s drums and subsequently by bass and piano it’s an urgent piece with an odd meter groove but with something of a bebop sensibility. Will Barry shines throughout the album and delivers a thrillingly exuberant and percussive solo here, accompanied by churning bass and busy, clipped drums as Mansfield again steps back. The audience love it. It’s then over to Mansfield to dazzle at the vibes as he and Barry continue to jockey for position, with McCarthy also weighing in at the drums. It all represents a thrilling, high energy finale and the audience at the ‘Pizza’ give this buccaneering young band a terrific reception.

On the evidence of the Shrewsbury show and of this live recording no two shows by this edition of the Jonny Mansfield Quartet are going to be the same, every night will be thrillingly different. This is a band with an impressive collective rapport and a shared sense of adventure, approaching their chosen material with great elan and using it as the jumping off point for some exhilarating collective improvising laced with dazzling individual solos. The idea of sequencing a number of tunes together and letting them run into each other works brilliantly, ensuring that there’s no loss of focus as the music ebbs and flows. For the audience these intricate musical tapestries make for fascinating and absorbing listening, a performance by the Jonny Mansfield Quartet is an immersive experience both for the group and its fans.

My thanks to Jonny for sending me a review copy of the album in the wake of our meeting at Shrewsbury. Recorded at the ‘Pizza’ by Nikola Kovacevic the album has subsequently been mixed and mastered by Mansfield and the turnaround has been remarkably rapid. Fortunately the recorded sound is excellent throughout with a good balance between the individual instruments.

I’d like to think that the publication of this review is timely with the quartet due to play another short series of shows in May 2024, including a visit to the upcoming UNESCO & CV Jazz World Jazz Celebration 2024 organised by Clun Valley Jazz that will take place from 2nd-4th May at the SpArC Theatre in Bishop’s Castle, Shropshire. Other artists performing include the Rory Ingham Sextet and the Julian Siegel Quartet. For details please visit;

The full schedule for the Jonny Mansfield Quartet is;

Bishops Castle, UK
Sparc Theatre

Norwich, UK
Anteros Arts Foundation

London, UK
Vortex Jazz Club

For ticket links and to purchase albums please visit

Recordings are also available via


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