On his sixth solo album, the award-winning Wilson looks more towards commercial influences than previous work.

It would be easy for a man of Alex Wilson’s pianistic talent to cruise along comfortably, picking up sideman or session gigs here and there and continuing to operate in the time-honoured medium of standard small jazz groups. But that doesn’t match his creative vision. Instead, recent records have seen him assemble a 12-piece all-singing, all-dancing Latin ensemble, capable of swirling grooves and intricate polyrhythms which bring out the best in his compositional nous.

After Inglaterra (2007), a disc which firmly established his arrival as a major player on dancefloors around the world, Wilson has opted for a more western, singer-oriented outing – as the title of Salsa Con Soul would suggest. Welcome to a truly globalised world, where traditional elements of Latin music are combined with more mainstream genres like soul, R&B and gospel.

The band is spot on, raking through sharp, classy arrangements that complement the assortment of vocalists and help them sound really good. The word ‘diva’ has become cliché, including its use in this CD’s press release, and there is a sense of a diva complex in the music: the English lyrics occasionally veer precariously close to the rather crass realms of our dearly beloved pop kingdom. However, spicy instrumentation will often step in to save the day, like a knight in shining armour to rescue the damsel in distress, going some way to appease even the staunchest anti-pop crusaders. This is not said lightly, but it’s forgivable in the name of fun.

Salsa Con Soul ticks pretty much all the boxes. There’s even a sprinkling of fiery non-vocal tunes to soothe the aforementioned purists – ‘Sabroson’ and ‘Antonio’ offer a pleasant respite from soul diva shenanigans. If you’re planning a Latin-themed dance party, this record should be number one on the shopping list.

Release: 20/10/08


Published @ Fly, 3/10/08 – click here for original.