Features/Interviews (PP)

Wendy Kirkland (‘Latin Lowdown Live’ tour, starts 4 September)

A live performance to a live audience…that is what I’m looking forward to,” says Chesterfield-based pianist, singer, Hammond player Wendy Kirkland. She is about to head off on a tour, “Latin Lowdown Live”. Feature by Lavender Sutton:

Wendy Kirkland at Ronnie Scott’s, 2021. Photo credit Monika S. Jakubowska

Wendy Kirkland has been busy over the past year and a half. She is known for her terrific ability to sing and play piano much like some of the greats, Diana Krall and Eliane Elias. Her 2019 album The Music’s On Me received high praise across the country and features some really stellar tunes to impress vocalists and musicians alike (Album Feature). With tracks like Pools by Don Grolnick and West Coast Blues from Wes Montgomery, as well as vocal standards like Haven’t We Met and the Bob Dorough song Nothing Like You, she covers a broad spectrum of music and with panache. 

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When the pandemic started and the desire to play music was waning, Kirkland knew she needed a reason to sit down at the piano. What began as a project to learn a new tune every day quickly evolved into more of a concert when her bassist/guitarist husband Pat Sprakes volunteered to join in the process. Their shared interest in Brazilian music gave the daily session a theme: “Latin Lockdowns” and before long, they had a whole repertoire of new songs to share with the world – A total of 86 have been recorded as Facebook ‘live’ videos. 

The recordings feature some special guests as well as a pinch of fun. Kirkland’s always donning a charming costume or a brightly coloured rose in her hair and engages the listener with a personal touch. Kirkland said these concerts seemed to really lift people’s spirits. She had so many getting in touch to say how much they were enjoying her daily performances that it seemed silly to stop. 

As things began to re-open and move forward, Kirkland received Arts Council funding to take her Latin Lockdowns on the road. With a collection of gigs starting 4th September all over the UK – her hometown of Chesterfield all the way down to Cornwall – Kirkland and Sprakes have written arrangements of many of their favourite picks from their daily sessions to put into concert. 

With Sprakes playing guitar, many of the gigs on this tour feature Kirkland’s sextet – with Wayne Matthews on bass, Steve Wyndham on drums, Jon Richmond playing percussion and a special addition of Roger Beaujolais on vibraphone. 

The daily lockdown tune from Kirkland’s own home filled the music void of many, but “a live performance to a live audience…that is what I’m looking forward to,” she said. “Most musicians, if they couldn’t perform, might not play. Giving myself a purpose to play the piano kept me going until I could get out and perform again.”

Of the 86 recordings that have been saved to Kirkland’s Youtube Channel (link below) some of the most exciting ones for gig-goers to look forward to include: latin classics from Jobim like Agua De Beber (HERE) and Desafinado, Gilberto tunes like Chega De Saudade and O Pato but also more conventional jazz standards done with a latin flavour like Here’s That Rainy Day and Sunny.

If perhaps there is anyone who has not delved into the world of streaming concerts yet, Kirkland’s might be a good place to start. She has conceptualised it to work like a concert being broadcast on TV and says that “For anyone who would be happy to watch jazz on television, it’s very similar to that.” She has even written a theme tune!

Kirkland’s tour extends all the way into November, with live dates spread out all over England. She has revealed that there are hopes to release a latin album from the material recorded live on this tour. “We will have done so many concerts with so many tunes and they are all different! We just have to listen to the material and narrow it down.”

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The tour, supported by the Arts Council England Lottery Fund, commences on 4 September 2021. Tickets can be booked on Wendy Kirkland’s website

TOUR DATES (correct as of 31 August)

4 Sep- LIVE STREAM – Latin Lowdown Live (sextet feat. Roger Beaujolais) Stream no. 7 – YouTube

10 Sep – Wendy Kirkland and Pat Sprakes with PRS at Stray’s, Stamford

2 Oct – Live album recording at Olde House, Chesterfield

4 Oct – Quartet at Louth Jazz (Mason’s Arms, details TBA)

10 Oct – Quartet at Harborough Jazz Club (£10/£12 on the door)

11 Oct – Latin Lowdown Live (sextet feat. Roger Beaujolais), Jazz at the Manor, Tamworth

26 Oct – Latin Lowdown Live (sextet feat. Roger Beaujolais), Fougou Jazz, Torbay

28 Oct – Latin Lowdown Live (sextet feat. Roger Beaujolais) Restormel Arts, Chycara, Truro

29 Oct – Latin Lowdown Live (sextet feat. Roger Beaujolais), Lostwithiel Jazz Cafe, St Barts, Lostwithiel, Cornwall

4 Nov – Latin Lowdown Live (sextet feat. Roger Beaujolais), Peggy’s Skylight, Nottingham

12t Nov – Wendy Kirkland and Pat Sprakes with PRS at Stray’s, Newark

13 Nov – Latin Lowdown Live (sextet feat. Roger Beaujolais), Chesterfield Library Theatre (11.45 a.m. start)

18 Nov – Latin Lowdown Live (sextet feat. Roger Beaujolais), Chesterfield Jazz Club

3 Dec – Wendy Kirkland and Pat Sprakes with PRS at Stray’s, Oakham

LINK: YouTube Channel

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