Alan Wakeman is so unassuming that one can lose sight of what a creative presence he is and has been for many years on the British jazz scene.
Fortunately other people have contrived to bring him into the spotlight where he richly deserves to be. In this ‘tribute to himself’, his groundbreaking recordings for BBC Jazz Workshop (1969) and Jazz In Britain (1979) are the focus. They were re-issued in 2020 on Gearbox Records and have won a fistful of encomiums, not least featuring in the Critics’ Polls of New York City Jazz Record and Jazzwise magazines.
Now Alan has assembled a high-powered band to take this music out on the road. The band comprises some of the original performers and others of the calibre required to do the music justice. Henry Lowther (trumpet) and Art Themen (saxophone), John Horler (piano) and Paul Nieman (trombone) are the veterans. Asif Sirkis (drums), Arnie Somogyi (bass), Peter Whyman (clarinet) and Miguel Gorodi (trumpet) complete the ensemble, billed as Alan Wakeman’s Octet.
Dates so far include Ronnie Scott’s (May 8th), Exeter Phoenix (May 10th), Birmingham Jazz Festival (May 13th) and Dorking Watermill (May 17th).
We at Interplay wish Alan the very best for the tour and are booking our seats right now to experience this unique and very British jazz live in person.
Jazz Journal, eminent British Jazz periodical, has published a review of our gig at Kenilworth Arts Festival.
You can read Matthew Wright’s review here
Kenilworth got on its feet on Saturday night when Interplay appeared in party mood. With balmy temperatures, the rain mercifully scarce and a comfortably relaxed crowd in Talisman Square we were all of one mind – to groove!
Venezuelan pianist Edgar Macias, sitting in for Neil Hunter, brought a truly authentic touch to our Latin set. Not only that, his vocal rendition of ‘Chan Chan’ was really romantic, according to at least one female audience member! As the gig coincided with the 25th anniversary of the great Buena Vista Social Club recordings this was very timely indeed.
Our other guest was trumpeter Carol Whitworth, standing in for trombonist Richard Baker, and herself from Kenilworth. Carol’s initially cool playing got hotter and hotter as the night went on, especially on funkier numbers like ‘Memphis Shout’.
Interplay stalwarts Alan Wakeman (saxes and flute) and Dave Balen (drums and percussion) were in fine form too, whether on the Latin repertoire or some of the band’s more off-the-wall numbers like ‘Norbert Dentressangle’ and ‘No Trouble’.
Thanks very much to Kenilworth Arts Festival for having us, and we look forward to making the Square move again at a future festival!
Interplay will be appearing at Kenilworth Arts Festival on Saturday 18th September at 7.30pm. This is an outdoor gig so the emphasis is very much on lively, groove-filled music to get you moving – in your seat or on your feet!
After our long lay-off we are delighted to be appearing in the Warwick district again. This follows our highly enjoyable outing at All Saints Church Leamington in August.
Check out the gig details here.
Information about Kenilworth Arts Festival is here.
Dress warmly folks!
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Our new video – ‘Pearly Light’ – is now up to watch! It’s been a while since we videoed ourselves. This track is a lucky combination of some super shots by photographer Mark Ludbrook (@sportsshots) and some live recording, both caught while we were at Chesterfield Jazz Club in March 2019.
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 https://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’.