JAZZ & BLUES

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The Independent Culture
London's leading venues are doing their bit for seasonal goodwill by offering up some guaranteed crowd-pleasers. George Melly and John Chilton's Feetwarmers continue their stint at Ronnie Scott's, Frith Street, until 30 December, with support from the John Critchinson Quartet, performing as "The Scott Legacy", while at the Pizza Express Jazz Club, Dean Street, the swing tenor-player Scott Hamilton remains in residence, apart from breaks (Tuesday 21 December and Christmas Eve to Boxing Day) until 30 December.

Meanwhile, the Jazz Cafe, Camden, has the ever-entertaining Georgie Fame and the Blue Flames on 20 and 21 December, while the London Community Gospel Choir appear on Christmas Eve.

After Christmas, the Jazz Cafe has Robin Jones and his Latin Jazz Sextet. Do not be misled by the leader's Anglo-Saxon name - this outfit generates pulsating rhythm and in Jones has a frontman who can hold his own in any company.

At the 606 Club, Chelsea, the festive fare is Monday (27 December) evening's spot by Clare Martin and Ian Shaw, by common consent two of the best jazz singers Britain has ever produced.

The following evening, the Queen Elizabeth Hall welcomes the South African Gospel Singers, led by Pinise Saul, for the final show in a short UK tour, before the choir heads home for the Millennium Extra- vaganza in Soweto.

London's own millennium extravaganza takes place at the Blackheath Halls on New Year's Eve, when Jools Holland and his Rhythm & Blues Orchestra headline a night of music that will include a set from the irresistible Jazz Jamaica.

This is traditionally a lean time for new recordings, but Columbia has just released a pair of albums inspired by the man whose shadow has loomed large over the jazz scene this past 12 months., Duke Ellington. Veteran pianist Ellis Marsalis's Duke in Blue is an appealing disc setting out the New Orleans master's subtle take on mainly well-known samples of the work of this most gifted of composers. The record by fellow pianist Marcus Roberts is less of a literal salute to Duke, being a series of pieces inspired, rather than written, by Ellington. Nevertheless, In Honor of Duke, on which Roberts is joined by a trio that includes drummer Jason Marsalis, consistently evokes the spirit of the man who did more than anyone else to get jazz taken seriously.

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