Arts: Jazz - New talent (and all that jazz)

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The Independent Culture
CONTRARY TO opinion, it is possible to hold a jazz festival without relying on elderly American musicians with jet-lag. For a number of years now Bath has concentrated on new developments in European jazz and the excitement of discovering acts you've never heard of usually outweighs the pleasure of hearing yet another version of "Body and Soul", however good it is.

Take the Yuri Honing Trio from Holland. Announcing their next tune as the Swedish national anthem, they then play Abba's "Waterloo" as a keening, lugubrious ballad; follow with a double bass solo (by Tony Overwater) of Roberta Flack's "Killing Me Softly", and encore with "Walking On The Moon". Though the pop songs are a gimmick, the playing - with Honing on tenor sax - is extraordinarily fluid. There's also a typically Dutch playfulness involved, as when the drummer Joost Lijbaart accompanies one number with just brushes, with the wire tendrils flailing the air to make a surprisingly effective noise.Britain's Orquestra Mahatma have a similarly informal, playful, style, plundering World Music to mix up Balkan-sounding folksongs, Cuban and African dance music and the odd unlikely standard.

The Alborea Quartet from France were another real discovery, with their leader, Renaud Garcia-Fons, turning out to be the Stephane Grappelli of the double bass. With a second bassist to keep time, Garcia-Fons is left free to bow rather than pluck, revealing an astonishing arco technique in dazzling solos. By comparison, a solo performance by the British bassist Paul Rogers came across as rather pedestrian, despite a plethora of textural effects.

All this European experimenting can have a downside, however. It wasn't long into the Dutch cellist Ernst Reijseger's solo performance before you were ready to shake him by the neck until he agreed to play a proper tune. The cod-classical references, absurdist games and endless plinky- plonking were about as funny as a Czech cartoon. In contrast, the French duo of violinist Dominique Pifarely and pianist Francois Couturier were so earnest, it felt like a private rehearsal at the Paris Conservatoire. Even in the neo-classical splendour of the Guildhall they sounded a little dry.

For the final concert of the festival, Ernst Reijseger returned to partner the saxophonist Andy Sheppard in "Deconstructing Porter", a programme in which Cole himself might struggle to identify some of his tunes. For a while both Sheppard and Reijseger struggled a bit against the continual shake, rattle and roll of Paul Clarvis and Alan Purves. By "Night and Day", however, which was prefaced by a quite brilliant bowed cadenza by the cellist, the project, like the festival itself, more than fulfilled its promise.