A new era dawns for Soho institution the Pizza Express Jazz Club: design director Rob Weller explains his thinking during a tour of the club conducted by club manager Ross Dines

Marlbank this week visited the refurbished Pizza Express Jazz Club and spoke to music manager Ross Dines, pictured top in his office high above the Soho streetscape, and to design director Rob Weller who masterminded the refit Rob Weller Pizza …

Published: 16 Aug 2022. Updated: 49 days.

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Marlbank this week visited the refurbished Pizza Express Jazz Club and spoke to music manager Ross Dines, pictured top in his office high above the Soho streetscape, and to design director Rob Weller who masterminded the refit

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Rob Weller Pizza Express design director in the audio and pictured in one of the newly lit and refurbished booths above previously oversaw the refurbishment of Pizza Express’ live music basement venue in Holborn

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The new tiered seating terraced area

The Pizza is gearing up for a busy London Jazz Festival this year. Acts for the November running on Dean Street include Sheila Jordan with the Ray Gallon Trio, the Sam Leak Trio, Linda May Han Oh, Simon Spillett Big Band, Mihály Dresch’s Hungarian Jazz Quartet, Amy Gadiaga, Helena Kay KIM Trio, Chiminyo, Dave O’Higgins with Rob Luft, Allexa Nava, Jazz Sabbath, Sofia Grant, Daniel Casimir, Andee Liu with Roella Oloro, the Steve Kuhn Trio, Matt Ridley, Alex Ridout and Catherine Russell. Ross explained that the new look venue, a fixture in Soho since the mid-1970s, opened after the refurb on 10 July with Guy Barker and Ian Shaw and feedback so far has included the comment that the venue “has not lost its soul.”

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Street scene on Dean Street in Soho sporting the new Pizza Express fascia look

Changes include a new exterior look to the fascia, the re-establishment of the direct Dean Street entrance to the club instead of via the upstairs restaurant in Weller's words to give the place more of a Soho night club feel. The refit took some two and a half weeks to instal.

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Annie Birdseye, club social media and PR executive, pictured with Ross in front of the newly reimagined club bar

The old ''on air'' sign has gone. But instead inside as you enter from the Oxford Street end of Dean Street and descend the new bar is closer to the door at a remove from its old positioning.

There is bar-side tiered seating for diners and drinkers which helps sightlines from the wings. While the stage dimensions are the same, Ross says, there is a new carpet on its flooring.

The booths have been “spruced up” with new fabric and the toilets have been refurbished for the first time in many years. Photos: marlbank

Tags: INTERVIEWS

Anthony Strong, Skylark, Guaranteed ***

And in your lonely flight, haven't you heard the music in the night? Wonderful music, faint as a will o' the wisp, crazy as a loon, sad as a gypsy serenading the moon Track of the day and new in the 1 Luv spot is 'Skylark' from Easy Sailing is from …

Published: 16 Aug 2022. Updated: 3 months.

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And in your lonely flight, haven't you heard the music in the night? Wonderful music, faint as a will o' the wisp, crazy as a loon, sad as a gypsy serenading the moon

Track of the day and new in the 1 Luv spot is 'Skylark' from Easy Sailing is from singer-pianist Anthony Strong this autumn. A collection of standards, the Hoagy Carmichael and Johnny Mercer song recorded and first released by Gene Krupa and Anita O'Day in 1942 and repopularised in recent years by Gregory Porter on his classic 2010 album Water opens the album which is to released on 11 November.

It's been quite a few years since marlbank last caught Strong live, on that occasion in 2014 at a festival in Derry when his sound was spearheaded by the classic blended Blue Note style of saxophonist Brandon Allen and trumpeter Graeme Flowers. Five years on Me & My Radio was the last record of Strong's to flicker on our radar.

Habitually sharp-suited, with a superb modern mainstream swinging piano style rendered as an updated version of Nat King Cole’s classic approach the style this time is wrapped around lush strings.

1990s trappings in the orchestrated fleeting cadences before the word ''Skylark'' rings out recalls an arrangement in the opening bar that switches on an electric light in our minds to think of the descending guitar riff of Sting's 1993 classic 'Shape of my Heart'.

Anthony's voice sits proudly alongside a sensibility such as that of the formidable US singer Peter Cincotti. Classics including Leonard Bernstein's 'Maria', 'Comes Love' and again that Nat King Cole identification intact all these years on - 'Nature Boy' also figure.

Anthony Strong, top - from the album sleeve