In 2021, the festival came back in a shorter, 3-day format, after a pandemic-induced hiatus. The restrictions had just been lifted and the excitement to be back in a live music setting together was palpable. Alex Wilson, the creator and original curator of the festival, graced the stage with his trio (+ Edwin Sanz & Dimitris Christopoulos) playing a mix of originals and classics, firmly rooted in the Latin jazz tradition; the Latin Bridge provided warm, sunny traditional Cuban trova and son music on the Saturday lunchtime; Dorancé Lorza, one of the maximum representatives of modern small salsa combos on this side of the Atlantic, hauled in his septet and his vibraphone for a night of beautifully arranged salsa, and finally on the last day Neue Grafik Ensemble blew the energy through the roof in his collaboration with Hammadi Valdés and his team for the Afrocuban:Jazz sessions Vol.II.
No festival due to the pandemic.
2019 had a truly impressive headliner - Brazilian giant Ed Motta himself with his ensemble. This was also the year in which the Afrocuba:Jazz Sessions saw the light of day with Hammadi Valdés and his team + the Jay Phelps Quartet. Percussionist Emeris Solís exclusively curated a night of Afro-Colombian jazz with marimba extraordinaire La Wey Segura, calling the project Guapi Soul and taking the audience on a journey. Eliane Correa brought her full-sized Cuban timba band La Evolución; Claudia Aurora, the UK queen of Portugese Fado, and the London Tango Orchestra brought tastefully performed musics from Portugal and Buenos Aires respectively.
On this edition, our headliner was the Godfather of the UK Latin scene, Roberto Pla, with his 17-piece ensemble! Aleh Ferreira brought his unique brand of Brazilian funk; Eliane Correa performed music from her critically acclaimed project En El Aire, a unique Afrocuban-jazz fusion; Cuban trumpet heavyweight Yelfris Valdés presented songs from his new album The World of Eshú Diná; and percussionist Ernesto Marichales exclusively curated a unique, beautiful journey towards Afro-Venezuelan jazz with an array of special guests.
On Eliane Correa's first edition as a festival curator, the entire festival sold out in advance. On headline duties, Alex Wilson's latest project featuring Nolita Golding, and Kishon Khan's Cubafrobeat featuring the Afrobeat legend Dele Sosimi on a neverending, extremely groovy set. Guitarist/composer Greg Sanders' large-format lush afrolatin-jazz-spiritual ensemble Teotima took the audience on a trip; Cuban timba king Osvaldo Chacón made everyone dance; Lokkhi Terra's unusual Bangla-Cuba-jazz-funk fusion wowed the audiences and Eliane brought her own afrocuban jazz ensemble En El Aire.
In 2016, Pizza Express welcomed the most significant Cuban pianist of modern times: Iván "Melón" Lewis with his trio, a true masterclass of Cuban piano; Venezuelan percussionist and utmost salsero Edwin Sanz launched his orchestra's much-anticipated second album Overflow produced by festival curator and pianist/composer Alex Wilson, who closed the festival on Saturday in a show including Indian classical vocalist Unnati Dasgupta; and Marc Halbheer brought a unique flamenco jazz fusion with Madrid Edition. Also, on Thursday, the all-star get-together of the UK's top Cuban soneros,called Son Con Swing, heated up the room to Cuba levels.
In 2015, the festival was headlined by Cuban violinist Omar Puente and his high school friends, all virtuosos in their own right, in his project Class of '86, and Alex Wilson joined forces with gospel kingpin Nikki Brown for a unique, very powerful night of AfroCuban Gospel Fusion. Dorancé Lorza brought his sextet for a night of trad salsa in a tasteful small combo format led by vibraphone; London's Brazilian funk collective J-Sonics launched their album; and Eliane Correa came back for her second year at the festival with her new brand of Cuban jazz En El Aire Project.
New-York-style salsa megaband Grupo X kicked off the festival with a bang in 2014. Jandira Silva, the UK's golden voice of Brazilian music, graced the stage with her ensemble; and Alex Wilson, festival curator, took piano lovers on a trip with Level 42's Mark Lindup. Eliane Correa debuted her brand new large-scale Cuban jazz project, En El Aire, to a sold out audience.
Once upon a time, pianist and composer Alex Wilson and his manager, Peter Conway, had the crazy idea to put together a 4-day Latin Jazz festival in London. The team at Pizza Express Jazz Club liked the idea, and the festival was born, initially as a pilot edition; it entirely sold out in advance, and has since become a yearly staple of the London live music scene. On the pilot year, Roberto Pla opened the festival with his 10-piece salsa ensemble; Alex Wilson himself performed with his Latin jazz ensemble and with fellow pianist Jason Rebello, and renowned salsa percussionist Snowboy closed the festival with his ensemble.
Latin jazz began as a musical conversation between Latin musicians and the buzzing jazz scene of the US; today the genre continues to evolve by listening to the world.
Asides from showcasing the best Latin Jazz from both the UK and beyond, the festival provides a space for unique collaborations by bringing together an array of world class artists for exclusively curated shows.
The London Latin Jazz Fest is a unique opportunity to witness a line-up of sensational Latin and Jazz musicianship in a globally minded setting.
Gerardo de Armas by Katarzyna Borek, 2019
Previous editions have included the likes of Ed Motta, Snowboy, Alex Wilson and Omar Puente.
Most shows sell out in advance so we advise that you get your tickets early.