JAZZ & BLUES

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The Independent Culture
It may be August, but when it comes to jazz London is a long way from dead. Indeed, this week's highlights could rival any jazz gig of the year for excitement.

Over the years, the Mingus Big Band (right) has acquired a mighty reputation for carrying on and even developing the music of the great band leader and, until recently, at any rate, under- appreciated composer. The week's residency that begins at Ronnie Scott's, Frith Street looks to be especially promising this year because it comes hot on the heels of a record - Blues & Politics (Dreyfus) - that is arguably the crowning achievement of the big band. Expertly played by a cast that includes the likes of Randy Brecker, Bobby Watson and Vincent Herring, it has soul and swing in abundance.

McCoy Tyner would deserve a place in the Jazz Hall of Fame for his work with John Coltrane alone. But there has always been a lot more to him than that, as a series of albums as leader for Blue Note and for Impulse demonstrate. Furthermore, he is one of the few survivors from his era still seeking to break new ground.

Since his latest album has been recorded with Latin All-Stars it is perhaps appropriate that he should be spending the week from Monday at Camden's Jazz Cafe, one of the centres of London's thriving Latin dance scene.

Among the recording highlights of the moment is a wonderfully mature effort from the saxophonist Steve Grossman. Although he's been around a while, and has benefitted from playing with big names, he has lately found his own voice out of the clear Sonny Rollins and John Coltrane influences. Quartet (Dreyfus Jazz) sees him lead a foursome through a set dominated by standards - and thanks to the gentle promptings of the late pianist Michel Petrucianni, neither the material nor the format ever sound stale.

Ranee Lee is less familiar. But to judge from the voice on Seasons of Love (Justin Time), that will not last for long. With the prolific David Murray on tenor on some tracks and a rhythm section comprimising Jeff Hamilton and John Clayton, Lees does not lack for good support. But so assured is the singing that you hardly notice. A quiet one to savour.

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