This month, the London Latin Jazz Fest returns to Pizza Express Jazz Club in Dean Street for its sixth year. The festival celebrates music rooted in Latin and jazz influences. Seven concerts will present an array of internationally acclaimed musicians in this intimate, world-class venue in the heart of Soho. Cuban-Argentinian pianist and composer ELIANE CORREA, who is curating the festival for a second year, spoke to Emily Palmer.
“I have been involved in the Latin jazz scene in London for almost a decade now and I feel like the two musical cultures don’t collide anywhere near as much as they could. For me, this is the essence of the festival: having the chance to find new ways for Latin and jazz to converse and converge.”
The festival has international visibility: Yannick Le Maintec, music writer for the French broadsheet Le Monde, travels over from France every year to cover the festival. “London Latin jazz Fest allows me to really get the measure of what is happening in London right now and is already giving me ideas for the things I want to come back to hear within the year.”
So, what can audiences expect from this year’s festival?
“The line-up is a bit risky; there are some new, fresh acts,” reveals Eliane. “But it is my responsibility to cater for everyone, so we have a mix of traditional and emerging Latin jazz.”
On Tuesday 16, Eliane Correa herself opens up the festival with a set exploring Afro-Cuban folklore. Continuing her tradition of bringing a new line-up and a different sound every time she plays at the festival, she is joined by an array of special guests who are currently at the forefront of the London Latin jazz scene.
The following evening Ernesto Marichales leads a group of musicians collaborating exclusively for the festival. The unique performance showcases an all-star line-up of the UK’s most renowned Venezuelan musicians who have created a set combining jazz with Afro-Venezuelan drumming and percussion. For Eliane, this concert is a way to give this music the exposure it deserves.
“Afro-Venezuelan music is beginning to surface internationally, but there still haven’t been many performances,” explains Eliane. “It’s beautiful and reflects such a rich culture and language. There are some very talented Venezuelan musicians in London, so we are putting them together on the stage for a one-off concert. It’s going to be really special.”
On Thursday 18, the festival welcomes multi-award-winning Cuban trumpet player Yelfris Valdés for a performance of his critically acclaimed new album The World of Eshú Diná. Creating soundscapes with his trumpet and employing the use of electronics and improvisation, Yelfris transports ancient Afro-Cuban identities and folklore into new music worlds. The ground-breaking artistry of Yelfris is sure to set the stage alight.
“This is the concert I would recommend unreservedly this year,” says Yannick Le Maintec. “For me, Yelfris provides the missing link between Afro-Cuban jazz and the British new wave.”
Known as “the Godfather of Latin music in the UK”, Roberto Pla fills the stage with his 13-piece salsa orchestra on Friday 19 for two performances. The programme pays homage to the Fania era with a selection of originals and classics. This concert promises to have the audience up on their feet dancing to the sophisticated sounds of old-school American salsa horn arrangements.
The festival concludes on Saturday 20 with an exclusive performance from Elida Almeida, a Cape Verdean morna-coladeira singer, making her UK debut. Following in the footsteps of 20th century songstress Cesária Évora, known as the Queen of Morna, Elida’s music transports audiences to warmer climates with its sunny melodies and African rhythms. Whilst Elida’s music has a strong Latin-infused element, the programme departs slightly from Latin jazz, demonstrating Eliane’s commitment to curating a festival that embraces a diversity of artists and programmes.
“The festival is an opportunity to present other expressions of Latin music and the magic that is created when it collides with the rich and multifaceted genre of jazz. The festival does have something for everyone,” concludes Eliane. “But ultimately I want to open the minds and ears of our audience to new ideas and challenge their expectations, taking them with us as we explore further possibilities of Latin jazz.”(pp)
The London Latin Jazz Festival is produced by Peter Conway Management and hosted by PizzaExpressLive
Tuesday 16 October
Eliane Correa + special guests
Wednesday 17 October
Ernesto Marichales presents: Afro-Venezuelan Jazz All-Stars
Thursday 18 October
Yelfris Valdés: The World of Eshú Diná
Friday 19 October – DOUBLE SHOW
Roberto Pla & his Latin Ensemble
Saturday, 20 October – DOUBLE SHOW
Elida Almeida (UK exclusive!)