Guitarist Pete Oxley is not a man to let the grass creep up around him. He is not only a jazz musician but also a bow maker with a considerable reputation among classical string players. Despite this challenging position, he has found time and energy to set up the Spin Jazz Club with drummer Mark Doffman, now one of the most respected jazz venues outside London, write the music for his own quintet, Curious Paradise, which has already brought out two albums, perform and record with fellow guitarist Luis D’Agostino, and most recently put together a group that employs two of the finest classical players in the country.

This latest project, now in its third year, is a quartet called just Eclectica! and it has already gained considerable success. They recently played to a packed house in Ronnie Scott’s in London, still considered the country’s bastion of jazz. Yet Eclectica! is not a conventional jazz quartet. Two of the four players come from the classical world and the music and the arrangements reflect these diverse roots.

The germ of the idea came not from Oxley’s jazz activities but from his bow making through which he met and worked for the world-class cellist Bernard Gregor-Smith. For 40 years, Gregor-Smith had worked exclusively with the renowned Lindsay Quartet. But the Lindsays were about to stop performing and he was looking for a new project. He heard Oxley play with Curious Paradise in Sheffield and was fired with the ambition to play in such a context where the player is not constantly tied to the written score. By good luck, Gregor-Smith had already met a young talented concert violinist, Lizzie Ball, who had already worked outside the classical context with Simply Red.

Thus a conversation led to a meeting in Oxley’s house in Headington where both the repertoire and the name were decided before a note had been played. With Oxley’s guitar partner, Luis D’Agostino, making up the fourth member, they got to work to rehearse a concert programme. This process was not made easier by the marked difference between the jazz and classical world’s approach to the concept of time. For a classical player time is always made to fit the melodic shape of a piece, whereas in jazz, except in the slowest ballad, the opposite holds. Without a strict beat most jazz falls apart. Violinist Lizzie Ball had more or less grasped this essential difference and after some solid rehearsals and some neat arrangements by Oxley, the music of Eclectica! came into being.

The quartet’s first gig at the Holywell Music Room in 2006 was a big success and led to the production of a live album with a mix of pieces from the Latin American edge of jazz, such as Chick Corea’s Spain, originals by Pete Oxley and even a cello and violin duo by Kodaly in which Gregor Smith and Lizzie Ball could showcase their mastery of the classical idiom.

Since then there have been a couple of changes: Lizzie Ball has admitted to having a great voice and now sings, for example, the Joni Mitchell classic River, thus further broadening the repertoire. Secondly guitarist Luis D’Agostino, who had built a great reputation as a player in Britain decided to return to his native Argentina to put in some serious practice in the sun. Again by good luck, the Spin Jazz Club had recently hosted a young Swiss guitarist called Nicholas Meier who has such an astonishing technique and great sense of groove he is a match for even the forceful Israeli saxophonist Gilad Atzmon. Oxley grabbed his chance and offered Meier the empty guitarist’s chair in Eclectica! which he happily accepted. D’Agostino’s South American touch had been part of the flavour of the original Eclectica! sound, but Meier, also an accomplished oud player, has a more Middle Eastern colour to his guitar playing and this feeds back into the overall sound of the present quartet.

The group now has an extensive repertoire thanks to Oxley’s relentless energy as a composer and arranger though there is still a South American vibe to about half the numbers. The arrangements cunningly use the cello and violin like a brass/horn section, thus filling out the sound and taking into account the difference in skill as improvisers among the different players Nevertheless, from her rock experience and plain youthful exuberance, Lizzie Ball is now getting well into the improvising potential in the music. Apart from the difference in musical backgrounds, the members of Eclectica! also range in age from the late twenties to somewhere in the early sixties. Another tribute to the unifying power of music.

The new Eclectica! with Nicholas Meier alongside Pete Oxley on guitar, have a third concert at the Holywell, where that world famous sound of Gregor-Smith’s cello can resonate through the historic room. It is on Saturday, December 13. Contact 01865 305305, or The Spin Jazz Club (01865 741909) for information and tickets.