Interplay at Kenilworth Arts Festival

Adrian Litvinoff’s band, featuring Alan Wakeman, brought some Latin lift to the glowering skies of Warwickshire

Carol Whitworth (t), Alan Wakeman (ts), Dave Balen (d), Adrian Litvinoff (b), Edgar Macias (p) at Kenilworth Arts Festival 2021. Photo by Matthew Wright

It seems that organisers of music events have come to terms with pandemic arrangements and the summer months have helped in providing reasonable weather for outside performances. Now, at the end of the season, Kenilworth Arts Festival took a gamble and a mild evening, although with ominous skies, saw bassist Adrian Litvinoff’s band Interplay appear in the town’s Talisman Square.

A changed personnel, the leader and his usual associates, percussionist and drummer Dave Balen and saxophonist and flautist Alan Wakeman, were accompanied by local trumpeter Carol Whitworth and Venezuelan pianist Edgar Macias, and as a result the evening took on a decidedly Latin flavour.

At first the band seemed under-rehearsed and it took a couple of numbers for the sound to be balanced, but they soon fell into a groove, responding to each other and lending credence to their name. There were elements of soul jazz, in the shape of Cannonball Adderley’s Walk Tall and Memphis Shout, a tribute to the Memphis Horns, and on these Wakeman’s hard-edged tenor threatened to take it further out, reminding us of his more strident playing of times past, whilst Macias’s electric piano had a Zawinul feel to it. Herbie Mann’s composition Mushi Mushi, recalling Live At The Village Gate, was a feature for Wakeman’s flute with an extended solo from Macias, whose heavily rhythmic chords even hinted at an excursion on Ellington’s A-Train.

A particularly interesting inclusion was a reggae take on My Funny Valentine, at a faster than usual tempo, but one which worked, Wakeman’s deep tenor a perfect foil for Whitworth’s lyrical trumpet, which appropriately gave a sense of fragility often associated with the tune.

But it was the inclusion of the Afro-Cuban Amor Verdadero and the Buena Vista Social Club number Chan Chan that resonated most with the audience, as dancing broke out under the darkened sky. Both were showcases for Macias, doubling on vocals and whose heavily percussive chords brought to mind the Spanish/African elements of Cuban music made popular by Rubén Gonzalez. The fill-in riffs from the horns were particularly effective.

Throughout the evening the group was underpinned by Litvinoff’s solid bass work whilst the ever-present Balen showed what a versatile percussionist he is, whether laying down a steady supportive beat, introducing interesting percussive embellishments or using conga drum to create an authentic Afro-Cuban feel.

An enjoyable night’s music and all credit to the Kenilworth Arts Festival organisers.

Adrian Litvinoff (b, elb); Carol Whitworth (t); Alan Wakeman (ts, ss, f); Edgar Macias (p, kyb); Dave Balen (d, pc). Kenilworth Arts Festival, Talisman Square, Saturday 18 September.