Pete Oxley – guitars
Nicolas Meier – guitars
Raphael Mizraki – bass
Paul Cavaciuti – drums
Even before the first note was struck, it was plain that we had in store as much tonal variety as a two-set gig can hold. Between them, Pete Oxley and Nicolas Meier had ten guitars—6- 7- and 12-string; semi-acoustic and electric; fretted and fretless; and even a sitar guitar. And bass player Raph Mizraki had two electric bass guitars in addition to his upright bass. Of course, these days, jazz guitar is never ‘just’ guitar: various forms of electronica, often manipulated by foot pedals, now enable all manner of voices to be produced from ordinary instruments. But there was no gimmickry in this performance, nothing to compromise the vital musicality and lyricism of these two fine guitarists. They had that many instruments because they had that much to say. A case in point is Nicolas Meier’s fretless, which enabled him to play a Turkish-inspired tune, moving seamlessly between Turkish and Western modes. Another was Pete Oxley’s turn on the remarkable sitar-guitar, with its arresting tone and his deft use of its drone strings.
For all of the spellbinding guitar playing on show, this was truly a band performance: bass and drums were fully integrated into the music in a way that defied the usual chorus-solos routine. Whatever the differences in their instruments, Nicolas and Pete traded lead/rhythm duties with consummate ease; Paul Cavaciuti’s drumming added to the excitement of the music without once detracting from its subtleties; and if anyone in the audience had wondered why an able bass player needs a fifth string, Raph Mizraki’s playing was an eloquent answer.
Pete and Nicolas’ techniques were riveting, but beneath that, their lyrical resourcefulness is what truly stood out—astonishing runs in which virtuosity served the cause of beauty. The same applies to Raph’s bass solos. The first set finished with a slow demonstration of the drummer’s art in which Paul built up a sequence of complex rhythmic patterns, first with his hands—soon to be joined by Raph, playing a hand drum, to mesmerising effect. When the guitars finally entered, it was explosive—and the applause that followed is such as any band would be pleased to get after the final number.
The second set started on a quieter note, but we were soon caught up in lovely, enchanting numbers, many of which featured sudden rhythmic changes, always managed with aplomb. Audience members could be seen shaking their heads in wonder. There was, of course, a brilliant, propulsive, all-out finish. But even after two hours of full-on, dedicated playing, the audience had no mercy—and we were rewarded with a generously long encore—most certainly not what Pete Oxley called, ‘Another little ditty.’ A thrilling and delightful evening.