Roberto Fonseca - QEH, Friday 23 Nov - London Jazz Festival

The moment Roberto Fonseca and his band started playing at the Queen Elizabeth Hall, a warmth seemed to spread throughout the venue, an irresistible call to the cultural melting pot of Cuban folk music, with the net cast further through Fonseca’s own passion for US, Brazilian and South American Jazz. Roberto Fonseca - QEH, Friday 23 Nov - London Jazz Festival
The gig started in a low key fashion, but right from the off multi-woodwind player Javier Zalba and the man himself on piano proved their improvisational prowess, Fonseca managing to fly around the keyboard while his head pointed towards the audience from his intense leaning back!

Fonseca’s lines were at times fast and executed with great flair, but Fonseca’s greatest strength was his economy, playing clean lines with great melodic content. The trait of economy was shared with the rest of the band, all of whom showed off their superb chops without clouding the music, instead perfectly complementing one another. This was particularly true in the case of the drums and percussion, which locked together perfectly, slowly but surely building up the tunes with new cross rhythms, creating a perfect dialogue with each soloist.

While Fonseca’s brilliance as a soloist was always evident, his irresistible charm won the audience’s affection, inviting the audience to join in the party with a Spanish singalong simplified to ‘la la la’s’ after Fonseca tested the linguistic capacity of the audience (not to mention the inability of half the typically British audience to clap in time). The party atmosphere continued as he split the audience into two and conducted them expertly as an addition to the title track of his latest album ‘Zamazu’. The rabid audience called him back for not one but two encores, the second a beautiful solo piano rendition of ‘Over the Rainbow’ which served as a perfect postlude to the evening.

Mark Trounson