Robert Carr review: Piano virtuoso thrills Suffolk jazz lovers

By Robert Carr

24th Feb 2024 | Opinion

Pete Letanka Trio (Picture: Graham Pattison)
Pete Letanka Trio (Picture: Graham Pattison)

It had seemed such a long time since Hadleigh Jazz Club last opened its doors, but the wait had all been worthwhile when The Pete Letanka Trio took to the stage. 

For aficionados of jazz piano, Pete is the real deal with his blend of original compositions and arrangements of selected standards. And especially for the show, the Club had brought in a Yamaha piano to enhance his dazzling technique. 

Setting the standard for the evening, the show's opener was a sophisticated and swingingly upbeat arrangement of Duke Ellington's Satin DollWheatland, by another of the jazz greats, Oscar Peterson, was an evocative feature of the set.  Herbie Hancock's Driftin' was played with a special touch, as was Thelonious Monk's Monk's Dream.

Pete Letanka (Picture: Graham Pattison)

Seeing the Dave Brubeck Quartet perform in the 1960s is a memory that has remained with me. More recently, at a show by his three sons, they performed In Your Own Sweet Way, composed by Brubeck in honour of their mother. Pete played this complex piece in a thoughtfully sensitive manner befitting the Brubeck family's emotional attachment to it.

His connection to the music of the leading South African jazz pianist Abdullah Ibrahim was unsurprising because Pete's father is of the same heritage. His music is less known to me, but after listening to the deeply spiritual Water From An Ancient World and the extraordinarily beautiful Maraba Blue, I've vowed to make myself more familiar with it.

Self-composed numbers were a feature of Pete's repertoire: Third Thoughts from his association with Archbishop Desmond Tutu's daughter; Louis, written as a birthday gift to his Godson; and his standout piece Afrostocracy, composed to celebrate his mixed-race South African/Suffolk background, about which he confided to the audience – fascinating stuff.

Throughout the show, Pete's musicianship oozed sophistication, perfectionism, seriousness, and sheer class, reflecting the man he is. Yet, humour and anecdotes were always at the forefront; his charm and personality endearing him to the audience. 

Live at the Guildhall (Picture: Graham Pattison)

Ronnie Scott's Jazz Club's house bass player, the excellent Sam Burgess, was so in tune with his accompaniment of Pete that on many occasions they sounded as one. As was the integration of Hadleigh Jazz Club's resident drummer George Double. For me, the threesome gave a definitively high-quality jazz piano trio performance, and I loved it. Think of the Oscar Peterson Trio and you will get an image of it.

 In what must now be considered as one of the best attended provincial English jazz venues, Hadleigh Jazz Club presented yet another top-notch act for two sell-out houses in the Town Hall's magnificent Grand Hall.

Next up, on 20th April is 'Blues & Greene' starring saxophonist and guitarist Harry Greene with the Chris Ingham Trio. Tickets will become available from As they always sell out ultra-fast, be ahead of the rest by making sure that you receive advance information about this and other upcoming shows.                                                                                                                       

To be added to the Club's mailing list, contact promotor George by  email at [email protected]; on 07941 360890; or via his website To 


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