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.