JAZZ & BLUES

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The Independent Culture
Women have largely been conspicuous by their absence from all but the margins of jazz. But the coming week sees Ronnie Scott's in Frith Street welcoming a double bill of quite different female artists.

Acclaimed British vocalist Claire Martin (above) has a great jazz following, but she's not afraid to dip into poppier territory, as on the assured recent Linn release Take My Heart, which sees her putting her own imprint on material as varied as Nick Drake's "Riverman" and the classic "Only the Lonely".

Regina Carter, meanwhile, has chosen a little-frequented path by playing the violin. However, to judge from her just-released Verve debut, Rhythms of the Heart, it is a decision that she is completely comfortable with, since she leads an impressive band including piano maestro Kenny Barron and bass and drums team Peter Washington and Lewis Nash through a highly varied and entertaining set.

At the Barbican on Thursday, Duke Ellington continues to cast his long shadow in his centenary year as the imposing diva Jessye Norman offers the first of two performances of the great composer's sacred side, with assistance from a fine array of musicians, including bassist Ron Carter and trumpeter Guy Barker.

African and Latin rhythms are also to the fore, with Celia Cruz, the longstanding undisputed Queen of Salsa, appearing at the Barbican tomorrow night and - due to huge demand - at the Shepherd's Bush Empire on Monday.

Also on Sunday, the distinctive Brazilian percussionist Airto Moreira appears at the South Bank's Queen Elizabeth Hall, while Malian singer-guitarist Rokia Traore makes her UK debut at the Pizza Express Jazz Club, Dean Street, from Tuesday until Friday. She's promoting her debut Indigo release, Mouneissa, a hugely engaging effort that makes it clear that there is more to her part of the world than Ali Farka Toure and his kin.

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