REVIEW: Alex Wilson and Friends at the 2016 London Latin Jazz Festival

Alex Wilson, Dany Noel, Eliane Correa

Alex Wilson and Friends
(Pizza Express Dean Street. 1st October 2016. Final Night of London Latin Jazz Festival. Review by Sebastian Scotney)

This photograph- taken from a distant bar stool, every last seat having been sold - at the very beginning of last night's closing gig of the fourth London Latin Jazz Festival, says a lot about pianist Alex Wilson's way as a bandleader and a festival curator. As he plays, he is looking on, encouragingly, supportively, transfixed by the playing of one of his colleagues. In this case it is the Cuban-born, Madrid-based bassist Dany Noel (full name Daniel Noel Martinez Izquierdo). Noel was ripping through a fast solo while simultaneously vocalising it. In other bands it can be the drummer or the bassist whose gaze shows them to be the most watchful and attentive and open-minded component. In this band it is the leader.

The tone of the last night is to reinforce the idea that a programme on Alex Wilson's terms is one which shows an astonishing openness to other sounds, ideas and musical currents. The band is essentially a one-off combination of like-minded spirits. They meet, they rehearse and their skill, savvy and energy, and the band-leading of Wilson create the momentum of the occasion.

At the the heart of last night's band was, essentially a five-piece salsa engine capable of creating massive power and heat, with astonishing dexterity in every department. The percussionists Edwin Sanz from Venezuela and Marc Halbheer from Zurich/ Madrid (formed in California - see interview) hardly knew each other and yet were finding an astonishing way of interacting and spurring each other on. Alex Wilson had also invited the London-based Cuban keyboardist / singer/ bandleader Eliane Correa to add an extra latin keyboard - just as Stevie Wonder does. She also was invited to play her own compositions.

This band then welcomed in the truly different in the form of the singer Unatti Dasgupta who is steeped in her family's Indian and Sufi singing tradition. It brought a complete contrast, another world, and showed the inventiveness of Eliane Correa who created subtle backdrops with delicate organ harmonies.

In its four years of existence, this lively and energetic festival has established its place in the London scene. It unashamedly presents new and unexpected juxtapositions - and yet has been virtually sold out every night.

London Latin Jazz Festival website
Festival Preview by Alex Wilson and Marc Halbheer 

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