We knew Tony of course – Neil and I had both worked with him before. Alina and the harp as an instrument were much less familiar, although preceded by her fulsome reputation. We listened to her music, went to see her perform, and dusted off our Alice Coltrane CDs.
Tony and Alina kindly agreed to play some Interplay tunes as well as bringing their own material. I proposed numbers that might suit a Coltrane-inspired programme. ‘Gratitude’, ‘Spanish Step’, ‘Slow Flame’ and ‘Rising on Thermals’ all made the cut with McCoy Tyner’s ‘Contemplation’, leaving me with the delightful task of re-arranging them for the expanded line-up.
We rehearsed the new charts and studied Alina’s parts, some of which were a few notes with one-line instructions. They would depend entirely on our finding the right feel on the night.
On the afternoon before the gig we worked through the whole programme – and were delighted to find there was a natural sympathy between us. Alina was clear about what she wanted and we were happy to provide it. Tony’s virtuosity in the front line seemed to throw Alan and Richard’s abilities into sharper relief, not leave them in the shade.
Before the concert Alina, prompted by Matthew Wright from In The Moment, talked engagingly and humorously about her musical development and growing engagement with jazz. It is integral to In The Moment’s approach to offer insights into the music alongside its performance, and the audience enjoyed Alina’s openness and honesty.
Then came the concert. Alina and Tony set out their stall with the opening sequence; ‘Wisdom Eye’ and ‘Blue Nile’ by Alice Coltrane, and Alina’s tenderly hopeful tune ‘Spero’. We supported them in our characteristic way, with Dave’s percussion in particular laying out textures and colours differing from their usual arrangements, and to which Tony and Alina readily responded. Several Interplay tunes followed, memorable for me especially for Tony’s storming solo on ‘Gratitude’, before the first set culminated with a moody and muscular ‘Dahomey Dance’.
A different vibe opened the second set: Dorothy Ashby’s bright Soul-Jazz anthem ‘Action Line’, featuring electric bass and Alan’s flute. Alina then gave an ethereal aura to ‘Rising On Thermals’, sensitively accompanied by Neil with Alan on soprano. Alice Coltrane’s intense ‘Gospel Trane’ was next, opening the door to some really free playing across the whole band in which both Richard and Alan showed their full capabilities.
A gorgeously delicate version of John Coltrane’s ‘Naima’ followed, before Dave’s open drum solo led us into ‘Spanish Step’ at a blistering tempo which brought forth another powerful solo from Tony. After that we took a deep immersion in the meditative qualities of Indian music and thought as ‘Journey In Satchidananda’ by Alice Coltrane brought the set to an uplifting end. The audience response was marvellous, and unsurprisingly provoked an encore: ‘Afro-harping’ by Dorothy Ashby proved a lively and good-natured coda to the evening.
We had been through a huge range of moods and atmospheres, some contemplative, others fiercely energetic, some elementally simple, others musically complex and multi-faceted. But it was the openness and engagement of Alina, Tony and the guys in Interplay that I will remember, because that is what allowed the music to flow, and to flourish in such a special way.
Interplay saxophonist Alan Wakeman recently reached a milestone birthday this year. Matthew D. Wright has written about his considerable track record and his continuing contribution to jazz, and this appraisal appeared recently in Jazzwise Magazine.
Matthew Wright’s Jazzwise review of our IJD concert.
‘When a top vocalist is in such high demand and performing in various places with local musicians…’ read the review here
Renowned jazz singer Norma Winstone, who is Interplay’s guest on May 1st, has just won another accolade – 2017 Vocalist of the Year – in the Jazz FM Awards.
Norma maintains a full schedule in this country and abroad, between Nikki Iles’ Printmakers and her own international trio, besides a huge range of other projects.
We are really privileged to have her, and will have to be absolutely on our mettle!
Tickets are still available online at time of writing from Wegottickets, and there will be a limited number at the door. The concert starts at 7.30pm in the Restaurant in the Park, Jephson’s Gardens. See our events page for further details.
Interplay’s guest for international Jazz day this year is none other than the great British jazz singer Norma Winstone!
Norma’s career spans a good five decades, since she emerged with the explosion of original British jazz in the 1960s. Her celebrated partnership with pianist John Taylor and trumpeter Kenned Wheeler produced some of the most elevated jazz of its time. Since then Norma continues to work in Britain and abroad making new music with many different artists and gathering awards.
It is therefore really exciting that Norma will be in Leamington on May 1st to join Interplay. Songs by Adrian Litvinoff will feature in the programme as well as carefully selected standards and instrumentals.
The event, an In The Moment promotion, will take place as last year in The Restaurant, Jephson Gardens.
For further information and tickets please go to http://interplayjazz.co.uk/event/international-jazz-day-concert/
Some people may have heard that Alan Wakeman is off the scene at the moment. In fact he has been under par for quite some time, and in the summer was diagnosed with a significant heart problem.
Recently Alan had the surgical procedure he needed, and he is now convalescing. He has been advised not to play the saxophone for at least three months, but in other respects he is hoping to be out and about within that time. We all wish him a full and steady recovery.
Please send Alan any messages via his Facebook page
In the circumstances we felt that Interplay should take a holiday until Alan is ready to gig again, which we hope will be not too far into 2017. At the very least we are planning something special for International Jazz Day 2017 at the end of April.
Thanks for your understanding.
Here’s another video from our Jazz Day concert with Claude Deppa in 2015. This time it’s our tune ‘Weightless’ featuring Dave Balen on tabla. After a beautiful soprano solo by Alan there is an amazing duet (or maybe duel) between Claude and Dave. Check it out!
There are more videos in the pipeline, so please keep visiting 🙂
Interplay’s gig with John Etheridge has been reviewed in May’s Jazzwise Magazine. Thanks to Matthew Wright for the well-chosen words! The title is:
Check it out online – just follow this link.
Interplay’s first International Jazz Day concert was in 2015 and featured special guest Claude Deppa on trumpet. Here is the opening number ‘Spanish Step’.
Here’s some video from our International Jazz Day concert with John Etheridge – Mingus’s breakneck blues “Boogie Stop Shuffle”
Superlatives are flying after Interplay’s concert with John Etheridge and Si Hayden for International Jazz Day! The event, organised by not-for-profit promotions group In The Moment, saw the Restaurant In The Park (Jephson Gardens, Leamington Spa) full to capacity with the kind of appreciative and enthusiastic crowd musicians long for.
The venue itself lived up to high expectations with clean acoustics, a contemporary vibe, and fine views of the river Leam yielding to Rob Sargent’s atmospheric lighting as daylight gave way to dusk.
Si Hayden’s opening set showed his unique mastery of the guitar while delivering his own compositions, that were by turns dynamic, expressive and humorous. It was no mean feat to start the evening as a solo performer, but Si did it with aplomb.
John Etheridge and Interplay opened gently with Pat Metheny’s lovely tune Hermitage, and then from the following number Spanish Step, the first of several originals by Adrian, it was clear that John and the band were in exhilarating form. Adding a special flavour to the evening’s set were two Soft Machine tunes, celebrating the fact that Alan and John had both played in that epoch-making band, briefly overlapping around 1976 or so (forty years ago!). Gesolreut was a typical Mike Ratlidge up-tempo blast, while Kings and Queens by Hugh Hopper provided a contrasting sense of stately beauty.
John gave a beautiful unaccompanied rendition of Goodbye Pork Pie Hat, which he introduced as his favourite tune. In another bandless spot he was joined by Dave on tabla and log drum in a spontaneous African piece that had the whole audience clapping and a few dancing too.
A blistering Boogie Stop Shuffle gave everyone room to shine and produced outstanding contributions from Richard and Neil, before Si returned to the stand to exchange guitar wisdom with John over the band’s pulsating version of the Cuban classic Amor Verdadero.
You can read more comments on the evening here.
Les Grafton of In The Moment took some excellent photos of the night (in challenging conditions) and these are now up on our Gallery page.
Here are some pictures from our recent gig at Leam Jazz, taken by Bob Wilkinson. Enjoy!
Interplay will be playing live on Coventry’s Radio Plus next Wednesday 25th November, to preview and promote the forthcoming Coventry Jazz Festival. The band’s set will form the climax of the evening which includes interviews and music from artists and organisers of the festival.
With Interplay’s keyboard wizard Neil Hunter committed elsewhere, the band is delighted to welcome Al Gurr, one of the region’s outstanding performers, who will be more than equal to the challenge.
The programme begins at 7.00pm, with Interplay’s appearance from 9.15 – 10.00pm. Radio Plus is at 101.5 FM or on line at Radio Plus
The festival is organised by national jazz agency Jazz UK, (formerly known as Jazz Services), now operating from Leominster in the West Midlands. It is one of the organisation’s first forays into promotion following a period of restructuring.
We had a lovely time at Stratford Jazz this week. A warm receptive audience, and of course we were well looked after and made really welcome by Jay Riley.
Jay took these really atmospheric photos in between running the desk, making announcements, selling raffle tickets and more! What a guy! Thanks Jay.
See them in our Gallery
Alan has reviewed the gig in SLAP (Supporting Local Artists and Performers), the multi-arts magazine based in Worcestershire.