Alex Wilson presents his new nine piece project
Saturday, July 18, 2009
co-led by virtuoso Malian musicians Madou Sidiki Diabat? and Ahmed Fofana
The UK’s undisputed master of salsa/latin jazz, pianist/bandleader
presents his new nine piece project
co-led by virtuoso Malian musicians
Madou Sidiki Diabat? and Ahmed Fofana
Friday 31 July: Jazz Caf?, 5 Parkway, Camden, NW1
Box Office: 0870 060 3777 / 0844 847 2514; Tickets: £17 advance; Doors: 7pm
Saturday 1 August: Snape Proms, Snape Maltings Concert Hall, Snape, Suffolk
Box Office: 01728 687 110; Tickets: £16/£13/£10 and prom area (standing) £6; Doors: 7pm
Alex Wilson - piano; Madou Sidiki Diabat? - kora; Ahmed Fofana - balafon/guitar; Doussouba Diabate - vox; Davide Giovannini - drums/vox; Davide Mantovani - bass; Emeris Solis - congas/vox; Bob Dowell - trombone; Nichol Thomson - trombone
Alex is an amazing pianist and all around genius who has put out ambitious latin and jazz recordings in the past, but his versatility goes way beyond these categories. Now he is mixing the traditional griot music of West Africa with hot Afro-Cuban forms and Nuyorican salsa, with a jazzman’s sense of swing and the sensitivity of an ethnomusicologist
[Alex’s] classy compositions confirm how devotedly he has absorbed the original sources while developing a sound totally his own
John Fordham, The Guardian
Mali Latino is the brainchild of the UK’s undisputed king of salsa/latin jazz, pianist/bandleader Alex Wilson, and Malian master kora player Madou Sidiki Diabat? (brother of Toumani Diabat?). The two met on the road in 2004 and felt an instant connection with each other, agreeing to cement the musical encounter by recording a track together. Madou returned to Mali but the two remained in contact. Alex visited Mali in February 2008, and Madou introduced him to multi-instrumentalist Ahmed Fofana - Alex was immediately struck by Ahmed’s virtuosity and musicality. In September 2008, Alex was honoured with an Artist in Residence placement at Aldeburgh, the prestigious conservatoire established by Benjamin Britten, and he took Madou and Ahmed with him; it was there - during an intense week of composition culminating in an hour’s recital to a rapturous audience - that Mali Latino was born.
Madou’s kora and Alex’s piano intricately weave through West African melodies over a powerful bed of fiery Afro-Cuban percussion and the driving village rhythms of Ahmed’s balafon; the intense griot vocals of Doussouba Diabat? soar above, mingling with the warm barrio latino insistent sound of the trombones. Add Ahmed’s ‘desert blues’ guitar, and Colombian conguero Emeris Solis Afro-Colombian vocals to the mix, and the musical bridge between the two continents is complete.
The nine-piece band has just recorded its first album at Peter Gabriel’s Real World Studios; Mali Latino is due for release in February 2010.
From his debut solo CD, 1998’s Afro-Saxon, through to his last release, 2008’s Salsa Con Soul, Alex Wilson’s journey has been one of experimentation and exploration, seeking to find his own voice within the latin music world. Born of mixed British and Sierra Leone parentage in the UK, Alex spent the first year of his life in West Africa before his family returned to Britain. His teenage years were spent between Austria and Switzerland (where he is now based). Alex’s father was an enthusiastic amateur pianist and he taught his son to play piano from an early age; Alex also had classical guitar lessons and auditioned on both instruments for the Vienna Conservatoire when he was 11. Seven years of serious tuition turned him into a virtuoso classical guitar player but piano won out; he turned professional in 1993, and was soon gigging around London, sitting in at latin jam sessions run by the UK’s top timbalero, Colombian Roberto Pla, who quickly recruited him into his Latin Ensemble. Alex signed a solo recording contract with Candid Records in 1998, was named Rising Star at the British Jazz Awards in 1999, and joined Courtney Pine’s band the following year. He’s performed with a wide range of artists in the latin, jazz, soul and reggae genres including Gary Crosby, Sandra Cross, Marc Anthony, Jes?s Alema?y, Adalberto Santiago, Jocelyn Brown, Snowboy, Victor Romero Evans, and Cleveland Watkiss. Alex cut three CDs for Candid: Afro-Saxon (1998), Anglo-Cubano (1999), and R&B Latino (2002), the latter creating a genre all of its own, before forming his own label and releasing Aventuras, Colombian/Cuban-influenced latin jazz for the listener. His fifth release, Inglaterra, featured a reworking of Chaka Khan’s anthem Ain’t Nobody, sung by Aquilla Fearon, which became a worldwide hit on the salsa scene.
As a composer and musical director, Alex has received commissions from Nitro (Britain’s leading black theatre company), Royal Opera House, Royal Northern College of Music, and SPNM (Society for the Promotion of New Music). He has worked as a record producer for various artists, most recently Gwyn Allen in I Love Louis: A Creole Tribute to Louis Armstrong; written the music for a new theatre production, The Wedding Dance, by Felix Cross, award-winning Artistic Director of Nitro; and, on a more commercial note, composed the theme tune for Channel 4’s How to Look Good Naked TV series. Another recent project was Uplifting Roots, a contemporary soul-reggae project co-led by Jamaican drummer Kenrick Rowe; he also guested notably on Courtney Pine’s Jazz Warriors Afropeans and Sidney Bechet projects. Alex is a committed music educator, having delivered workshops and masterclasses for young people both in the UK and internationally; he is currently Special Lecturer in Music at the University of Nottingham.
Madou Sidiki Diabat? is considered one of the best kora players in all of West Africa. He was born in 1982 to a prominent djeli (griot) family of Bamako, Mali, the youngest son of the late Sidiki Diabat? and Mariam Kouyat?. Madou’s older brother is the Grammy-Award winning kora player, Toumani Diabat?; his father, Sidiki Diabat?, known as ?the king of the kora’, was originally from Gambia but immigrated to Mali as an artist pioneer, using his talents as a djeli to affect social change in the country in the years between World War II and the Malian Independence of 1961. Taught by his father, Madou began playing kora at the age of three, and is the 71st generation of korists in his family. He developed as a djeli through the years by accompanying his parents as they travelled and performed. At the age of six, he played his first concert and, in 1992, aged ten, he performed solo kora on Malian TV, the youngest person to do so. Since 1997, Madou has taken his brother Toumani’s former position as lead kora for some of the best singers and musicians in West Africa, including Kandia Kouyat?, Ami Koita, Baaba Maal, Salif Keita, Sekouba Bambino Diabat?, and many others. He has numerous recording credits to his name, and has performed over 1,000 concerts and at more than 40 festivals throughout Africa, North America, Europe and Australia. Madou lives in Bamako with his wife, singer Safiatou Diabat?.
Ahmed Fofana grew up in the griot tradition of poetry and music. A talented multi-instrumentalist, he has played the flute, balafon (African xylophone), kora and hand drums for numerous Malian greats, including Ali Farka Toure, Toumani Diabat? and Vieux Farka Tour?. Whilst still touring them, Ahmed is also focusing on his own projects, including his new album, Riff Mandingue, recently released on Akwaaba Music.
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