WISE16 in conversation with Jazzolea

As many of us know, Rotherhithe is not just a great place to live but it also has a culture life. Tuned In London’s gigs at Sands Films Studios are an opportunity to discover new music. This month the first concert is Jazzoléa, a group of artists from Seville, Barcelona and London.

They interpret the mystery of Flamenco with the music of Jazz and the magic of Flamenco dance and swing. Esther Weekes is the face and soul of Jazzolea who will be bringing their performance of music and dance to Sands Films Studios in Rotherhithe as part of the Tuned In London Spring programme of worldwide music gigs.

WISE16 approached Jazzolea for a quick interview prior to their presentation. Here is the interview with Esther Weekes, lead singer and dancer of Jazzolea.

Have you been to Rotherhithe before?

Esther / Hello WISE16, thank you for interviewing me.  No, I don’t know it but I’m looking forward to discovering it, I understand it has an interesting maritime history. Anyway we really look forward to performing there. I’ve heard it’s lovely!

Since soleá is one of the most basic forms or palos of Flamenco music, my second question is whether the name was chosen to reflect that fusion of Jazz and Flamenco?

Esther / That’s right, Jazzolea is a merging of two musical traditions that appear to be distinct but really have some very interesting connections. Flamenco jazz fusion is not a new phenomenon. There are recordings of flamenco fusion that go as far back as 1929 when Sabicas collaborated with Cuban Saxophonist, El Negro Aquilino. Through the years flamenco artists such as Ramon Montoya, Carlos Montoya, Paco de Lucia, Tomatito, Chano Dominguez, to name a few, have crossed over into jazz flamenco territory. From the jazz side, artists such as John Coltrane and Miles Davis also made their way into the jazz flamenco world.

Where does the Jazz influence come from?

Esther /As a teen I fell in love with jazz, especially the music of John Coltrane, that has never left me, in fact, it was what pushed me to start dancing. I would dance to his “Favourite Things” for hours on end without any idea that I would later turn dancing into my career. I’m not a musicologist but blues, the close relation to jazz, is to be found within popular music, so, as I listen to a lot of music, jazz has been the backing track to my life directly and indirectly.

Which Jazz composers are important to the group and why?

Esther / Well, though we have created some original pieces, we also interpret a number of jazz and blues standards in a specifically flamenco way, adorning them with flamenco harmonies and rhythms.  Cole Porter’s Night and Day is performed in the style of an Alegrias, Blues guru, BB King’s “Everyday” is transformed into a Tangos and “Favourite Things” is a Bulerias. We also pay homage to one of my favourite artists, Nina Simone and Robert Johnson’s “Crossroads” is stripped bare to expose the roots of jazz and the hidden African roots of flamenco.

You have participated in the Festival Internacional de Flamenco de Sanlúcar de Barrameda, “Una Noche de Flamenco y Blues”, a well-established Flamenco Festival in Spain, how was the experience?

Esther /It is always wonderful to perform in festivals and theatres within Spain. I greatly appreciate when the audience is composed of flamenco lovers who are open to other influences. I love it because they are very interactive, they shout “Ole!” and get excited about the collaboration. I think people find it very heart warming that someone has taken their time to dedicate deeply to something so very complex as flamenco, but also has decided to bring something of themselves to it.

Spanish people talk about tener duende (“having duende”) loosely meaning having soul, a heightened state of emotion, expression and authenticity, often connected with flamenco. Jazz is itself another music expression of feelings. How do the duende and the emotion of playing jazz merge?

Esther / It is one and the same, I believe. Especially in dance, if you have what I call “the spirit of dance”, it will express itself whatever the musical form. It’s intelligence. You can channel it into a particular discipline but it’s the same I believe and it will surprise you and give you wonderful gifts once you’ve done the ground work.

Sands Films Studios has been appreciated by visitors for the cosy and special atmosphere it offers, how do you feel a show like yours will benefit from the magic of the place?

Esther / Creating magic is what we are about, so I think it will be the perfect setting to do this. We’re really looking forward to sharing with everyone the Jazzolea experience, we hope to bring those from the jazz side over to the flamenco side and the flamencos over to jazz. Dance is an important feature of our show, so within the cosy atmosphere of Sands Films, we hope to recreate the intimacy found within a flamenco peña but with a jazzy spin.

Tell us about the people who accompany you in the tour?

Esther /I am so happy to be accompanied by Sevillano guitarist Pablo Pradas and Barcelona drummer and percussionist, Demi Garcia Sabat. Pablo has a wealth of experience within the world of flamenco and has been very open and excited to explore the new territory that Jazzolea offers. Demi is well-known within the UK jazz and flamenco scene and also performs regularly within Europe. Both are a delight to work with. We will be performing in trio format for this concert, however, other members of Jazzolea include Cris de Moret and David “Chupete”.

If you can choose one Spanish Flamenco guitarist you’d love to play for you, who would you name?

Esther / Tomatito

and who you choose for Jazz music?

Esther / Not a guitarist but the late great Saxophonist John Coltrane would have been wonderful.

You can see and listen to the music of Jazzolea on Wednesday 19th April at 7.45pm.

  Book Tickets here

WISE16 recommends booking in advance not to be disappointed. Seating is limited and tickets sells quickly

Sands Films StudiosThis event is organised by TunedIn London in collaboration with Sands Films Studios.


At Sands Films, performances are usually held in the sofa-filled cinema on the ground floor. Occasionally they are held in the upstairs theatre. If you require wheelchair access we advise you to contact us to check the location before purchasing.

Tea and coffee is included in your ticket. There is no bar at Sands Films Studio though the are two pubs nearby: The Mayflower Pub just across the road and The Ship (only 3 minutes away)

Sands Films Studios, 82 St Marychurch Street, Rotherhithe, SE16 4HZ

  www.tunedin.london  @TunedInLDN  tunedin.london


Disclaimer: the information provided is subject to changes or cancellation. Always check the official website.

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