JAZZ & BLUES

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The Independent Culture
The British saxophonist Andy Sheppard (right) has never been an easy one to pigeonhole, so he is a natural choice for an innovative tour put together by promoters Serious with the aid of lottery money and support from whisky producers J&B. Tonight he steps out at Newcastle's The Cluny with Claude Deppa, the South African trumpeter, and Max Reinhardt and Rita Ray, two DJs heavily involved in the world beats explosion that has engulfed much of the club world in recent years. And on Wednesday, after a brief stint in London, the combo is at the Arches, Glasgow.

Also on Wednesday, Tim Richards' Great Spirit brings its effusive style to the Wardrobe, Leeds, before heading off to Manchester's Band on the Wall on Thursday. Meanwhile, another highly regarded British player, alto saxophonist Martin Speake, leads his group through an appearance at the Darlington Arts Centre on Friday.

Rather more rough and ready - but a great deal of fun - are King Pleasure and the Biscuit Boys, an engaging outfit seemingly intent on reliving the golden days of R&B, which is appearing at the Lichfield Guildhall tomorrow.

On the recording front, two releases remind us of the loss of two great pianists in the past 12 months. Michel Petrucciani was a genius who displayed an imagination that was made all the more remarkable by the physical disabilities he struggled to overcome throughout his all-too-short life. He made many extraordinary records in a comparatively short space of time, but Trio in Tokyo, just out on Dreyfus Jazz, is a fitting epitaph - featuring the maestro giving the experienced rhythm section of Steve Gadd and Anthony Jackson a serious run for their money.

As a long-time associate of Branford Marsalis, Kenny Kirkland was less obviously a star. But many musicians - including Marsalis himself - have attested to the important role he played in bringing their visions to life. And certainly the eponymous record that was Kirkland's only one as a leader is well worth its re-release by Verve. Supported by the likes of Marsalis, Christian McBride and Don Alias, Kirkland takes many approaches to the current post-bop style, but is never less than inventive.

Roger Trapp

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