What’s Happening?

By 29 May, 2024

With summer supposedly in the offing, let’s take a look at some of the most interesting events of early-to-mid summer in and around London Town and venues across the pond.

Arturo O’Farrill & the Afro Latin Jazz Orchestra with Hamilton de Holanda and Yamandú Costa at New York’s Town Hall

On Friday 7th June at 8pm pianist and big-band leader, Arturo O’Farrill presents an evening of Brazilian-tinged Latin jazz. “The music we call Afro-Latin jazz is as much Brazilian as it is Cuban or Puerto Rican,” suggests one of the genre’s deepest thinkers. Brazilian music, the son of Chico goes on, “is deeply important to the history of this idiom.” To underline the point, he hooks up with the exceptional mandolin player, Hamilton de Holanda, and master of the 7-string guitar, Yamandú Costa, who won the Latin Grammy award for “Best Instrumental Album” in 2021 for his Toquinho e Yamandu Costa – Bachianinha (Live at Rio Montreux Jazz Festival). It’s late in the day, for which I assume a heavy burden of responsibility, but there may be some tickets left for this Brazil String Theory event via this link.

Haila Mompié y su Orquesta at the Jazz Café

Described by World Music Central as “one of the great contemporary soneras“, Haila Mompié will appear at the Jazz Café, Camden on Tuesday 25th June. For anyone unfamiliar with the name, the singer has performed with the likes of Celia Cruz, Oscar D’León, Cheo Feliciano and Chucho Valdés to name but four dignitaries. Her album La Rumba Soy Yo was nominated for a Latin Grammy, so her rare appearance in London is quite some coup. Tickets for a taste of Cuba are still available. After watching this splendid hard sell, you’ll appreciate that resistance is futile.

New Regency Orchestra at the Scala

That long-promised eponymous album on Mr. Bongo comes out in the middle of June, and towards the end of the month – on June 27th – the mighty Latin big band takes to the stage at the Scala, King’s Cross. The Arts Desk has described the 18-piece NRO as “a beautiful combination of thunderous energy and delicate virtuosity”, which surely makes this gig an essential opportunity to check their assessment. The band’s Artistic Director, Lex Blondin, suggests that “We’re striving to do something fresh and innovative with this music and hope that our audiences enjoy listening to it as much as we enjoy making it.” Get yer tickets ‘ere! Meanwhile, here’s a taster of what to expect, live in my old stamping ground of Brighton back in March.

Maria Sena at the Jazz Café

Just a few days later, on Sunday 30th June, “Brazil’s new musical phenomenon” (in the opinion of GQ Portugal), Marina Sena will be appearing at the Jazz Café. Just up the road from the Scala, in fact, so you can walk from one venue to the next and camp out in a tent to secure your front-row seat. The singer has twice been nominated for a Latin Grammy following her 2021 debut, De Primeira. I confess, she has not yet crossed my path, but the album apparently combined samba with funk, carioca, trap, reggae and axé, and her follow-up Vício Inerente is out now. Last year’s performance at Village Underground was sold-out, so her return to the capital is bound to do the same. Secure your place here – without the need for a tent. 490,000 subscribers (!) can’t be wrong – can they?

July at the Jazz Café

High summer in Camden threatens to be sizzling hot with gigs lined up for reggae royalty like the Skatalites, Black Uhuru, Johnny Clarke and Johnny Osbourne, and South American big-hitters such as Dengue Dengue Dengue!, Céu, Ana Frango Elétrico and Marcelo D2. Further details hopefully nearer the time, but for early birds among you, here’s more.

LatinoLife in the Park

This year the West London festival celebrates Colombian Independence Day. The 8th edition of this multi-media event takes place on Saturday 20th July between 12 noon and 10pm in Walpole Park, Ealing. Quite apart from Colombian acts like Jimmy Saa and Desta French, the Latin Caribbean will also be celebrated with music, workshops and cuisine, and at “Viva Mexico” there will even be some Lucha Libre wrestling shows among the attractions. I wouldn’t suggest you necessarily take part in these, but there should be something for everyone at this rich, multifarious festival. Hurry, though, the tickets are going fast…

Levitt Pavilion Los Angeles summer concerts

There’s a host of golden attractions throughout the summer at the Levitt LA free summer concerts, taking place in MacArthur Park no less (did someone leave the cake out in the rain? I was looking forward to a slice). The season launches on Saturday, 22nd June with a night of cumbia. Throughout the summer, the focus will be on South California’s eclectic music scene and there will be 10 free concert performances featuring local and international Latin artists. I note with interest that the line-up includes Portland’s Y La Bamba and the legendary Wailing Souls. Can’t be bad. Here’s a little more to whet the appetite.

Margareth Menezes & Ilê Aiyê at the Barbican

Finally for now… you can usually judge a civilised regime by whether it has a Ministry of Culture. Margareth Menezes joined President Lula’s government at the beginning of last year as Minister of Culture. On Friday, 26th July, she teams up with the first Afro-Bloco (carnival) movement in Brazil, Ilê Aiyê, under the aegis of ¡Como No! for a night celebrating Afro-Brazilian music and culture at the Barbican, London. It should be a cracker! Tickets are on sale here.

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