Snape dances to the rhythm

Alex Wilson Band, Snape Proms, August 9, 2007. The last time Alex Wilson performed at Snape Maltings Concert Hall was five years ago, when he brought five other musicians with him.

Alex Wilson Band, Snape Proms, August 9, 2007.

The last time Alex Wilson performed at Snape Maltings Concert Hall was five years ago, when he brought five other musicians with him. I was there, and remember being so captivated by the music that I bought one if his CDs - the first of my salsa collection.

And on May 9, Alex was back at Snape as part of the Snape Proms, this time with a 12-member band including three singers.

Pianist/producer Alex Wilson has been at the forefront of Latin jazz for the best part of a decade. Recording the first of his five albums in 1999 - Afro Cubana - he is now in much demand in the salsa world. He has worked and played alongside top artists such as Couryney Pine, and also with Jazz Jamaica (who played the first gig of this year's Snape Proms at the beginning of the month).


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Alex is a true showman and spoke eloquently to the audience of his time travelling the world and his memories of playing last time at Snape.

Opening the show with a lively salsa tune to get everyone going, Alex and his band moved on to the slow, sultry Use Me from his third album, R&B Latino - the very one I bought all those years ago. He then showcased some new songs from the band's latest album, Inglaterra.

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It was so hard listening to such danceable tunes while seated, and I could sense the band and singers feeling the strangeness of performing to a static crowd.

But thanks to Terry Lewis of Salsa Chillout - who had given two salsa workshops prior to the concert - after the first couple of songs some members of the audience, including a few enthusiastic children, crept up from their seats and cushions to jig away down at the sides of the stage.

Closing the first half was a salsa version of Chaka Khan's Ain't Nobody, to which even more people got up to dance, and when everyone returned after the interval, the band made sure nobody sat down (or nobody in the front half, at least). This made for a much more fun and lively second half.

As well as original songs, Alex and his band also cover many classics, including a salsa-fied version of Nature Boy, the song made famous by Nat King Cole and George Benson, respectively.

With guitar solos and instrumental highlights from the timbales and bongo players, Alex made the most of all his musicians, as well as putting his heart and soul into the piano playing.

The end song was a lengthy version of A Guarachar Con Alex, from the R&B Latino album, in which the band members took it in turn to shine and the audience joined in with the vocals. I was also dancing up on the stage for this one and was exhausted by the end. But it was a happy, elated exhaustion. It had been a long time since I had danced and forgotten, almost, how much I enjoy it. The night whizzed by quite literally, and it was sad to come to an end. But with barely a spare seat in the house (although by the end there were many as everyone was dancing) I am sure the band will be booked to appear again to bring more Latino style to Snape. Katy Evans

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