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Jazz piano is a pretty crowded field at the moment, but Brad Mehldau has the potential to stand out on account of his willingness to move beyond the post-bop style while still sounding timeless. Though highly regarded as an accompanist to saxophonist Joshua Redman and others, only the latest of his own albums - Songs (Warners) - is available in this country. Catch him tonight at the Purcell Room on London's South Bank before the rush starts for the rest of the London Jazz Festival.

Also tonight as part of the same festival, the Blackheath Halls play host to another distinctive pianist, Abdullah Ibrahim, who over a lengthy career has fused the sounds of his native South Africa with Ellington- style jazz. His latest album, African Suite (Enja) carries the process still further, embracing classical strains as well.

Tomorrow, as the festival is brought to a close with an all-day event on the South Bank featuring British stars John Surman and Peter King, the Pizza Express, Dean Street, welcomes Gregory Tardy, the young New Orleans saxophonist whose recent Impulse album Serendipity showcases an intelligent Coltrane disciple.

On Monday, the exciting trumpeter Maynard Ferguson (above) begins a week at Ronnie Scott's, Frith Street, while Wednesday sees the start of a four- night stint at the Pizza Express, Dean Street, for Ben Sidran, the keyboards player/producer who tasted pop stardom with Boz Scaggs. An accomplished jazz writer as well, he is launching his latest rather engaging album, Live at the Celebrity Lounge on his own Go-Jazz label.

Also on Wednesday, the acclaimed Ry Cooder/Taj Mahal-style blues singer Eric Bibb plays the first of two nights at Camden's Jazz Cafe.

Roger Trapp