The enterprising pianist and singer Wendy Kirkland is set to help lift jazz out of the pandemic doldrums after winning an Arts Council grant to repeat the digital gigs she performed with guitarist-husband Pat Sprakes during the 2020 lockdown.
The couple’s virtually daily “Latin Lockdown” sessions streamed from their Chesterfield home took place on no fewer than 86 occasions from March 2020.
Their sextet with Latin percussion and guest vibraphonist Roger Beaujolais will now perform seven in-person gigs at the end of the year in Staffordshire, Essex, Derbyshire, Devon, and Cornwall, to be preceded by 10 live-streamed concerts from May, each with a completely different set list.
The home-produced Latin sessions were hugely popular and were offered free to fans on Facebook. They are now available on YouTube. They consisted of Brazilian and Afro-Cuban charts, many famous and others less well known.
The Kirkland band’s two albums, Piano Divas and The Music’s On Me, have won this popular performer an even wider following.
“The response to last year’s gigs was overwhelming”, Kirkland said. “Many commented that Pat and I were bringing sunshine to their lockdown and keeping them sane at a time when it was difficult to think positive.
“Encouraged by the feedback, we decided to plan a tour. But, as a further lockdown loomed, the idea that many of the concerts could be live-streamed arose. This presented a problem: on any normal tour, a band will repeat and hone the same set of music; but, for live-streamed concerts, as they are potentially viewable worldwide, the set would need to be different.”
The sextet will be Kirkland (keyboards), Sprakes (guitar), Wayne Matthews (bass guitar), Steve Wyndham (drums), Jon Richmond (percussion) and guest vibraphonist Roger Beaujolais.
“The project will be sorely needed for when audiences are allowed to congregate once more”, Kirkland added. “We can’t wait.”
Tour dates: Jazz at the Manor, Tamworth (Oct 11), Chesterfield Jazz (Oct 14), Harwich Electric Theatre (Oct 21), Churston Golf Club, Brixham (Oct 27), Lostwithiel Jazz Café (TBA), Chesterfield Library (Nov 6).