JAZZ & BLUES

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The Independent Culture
If London's summer fails to get off to a sizzling start it can hardly be blamed on a lack of Cubans in town. The Barbican Centre follows up the two-week festival at Ronnie Scott's with shows tonight and tomorrow by, respectively, Cubanismo - the band led by the incendiary trumpeter Jesus Alemany - and Ibrahim Ferrer and Ruben Gonzalez (above), two of the veteran maestros whom Ry Cooder has propelled to international fame.

There are more Caribbean rhythms at the Tabernacle in west London's Powis Square on Friday, when Jazz Jamaica guitarist Alan Weekes teams up with reggae singer Sandra Cross in support of the lilting, jazz-inflected CD Just a Dream (Hana Records).

This weekend is also a bumper one for blues fans, with Exeter's Bishopstock Festival attracting a fine line-up, including such solid performers as Anson Funderburgh, Charlie Musselwhite and Magic Slim, as well as newcomer Tommy Castro. But not all the action is outside London.

Tonight, Kelly Joe Phelps - whose country blues-meets-modern jazz is awesome - plays at the Mean Fiddler, Harlesden. A less chilling, but equally accomplished, effort is Geoff Muldaur's Hightone album, The Secret Handshake, which sees him leading a talented team through an enjoyable selection of what the cover aptly calls "American music: blues & gospel". He is at the Borderline on Friday.

In the same sort of vein, Eric Bibb, whose fourth album, Home to Me, is just out on Manhaton Records, is at Camden's Jazz Cafe on Wednesday and Thursday. The album is laced with the blues and Bibb is an engaging performer.

Back in the jazz world, the popular vocalist Mark Murphy is at the Jazz Cafe tonight and tomorrow, while Ronnie Scott's is host to the ever-inventive Django Bates for the week from Monday. The Pizza Express Jazz Club welcomes UK trumpet star Guy Barker from Wednesday until Sunday.

Roger Trapp

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