JAZZ & BLUES

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The Independent Culture
As the festive season draws close, the old troopers hit the stage, and so George Melly (right) and John Chilton's Feetwarmers kick off a busy Christmas by appearing at the Blackheath Halls tonight with renowned trumpeter and wit Humphrey Littleton, before taking up residency at Ronnie Scott's, Frith Street from Monday until January 2. Also getting dug in is the popular swing revivalist saxophonist Scott Hamilton, who is at the Pizza Express, Dean Street with various accompanists from Monday until 3 January.

In a somewhat funkier vein, the Jazz Cafe, Camden plays host on Monday to Christian McBride, the extravagantly gifted bass player whose latest Verve album, A Family Affair continues his exploration of up-tempo styles beyond the traditional jazz parameters. And on Thursday the same venue sees Georgie Fame continuing to do what he has done for decades now. As the recent live albums on Go Jazz demonstrate, it is a formula that still works well.

Tomorrow, it is rather more ethereal fare as saxophonist Andy Sheppard, whose Learning to Wave is a warmly engaging record, and pianist/composer Colin Towns, who has collaborated with the singer Maria Pia De Vito for the distinctive Still Life, are at the South Bank's Queen Elizabeth Hall for the official launch of the Provocateur label.

Of all the boxed sets currently available, the most essential is an eight- CD effort from Impulse devoted to John Coltrane's "classic quartet". Arguably the man who made possible the sort of flights of fancy that Sheppard and co go in for, Coltrane is heard with McCoy Tyner, Jimmy Garrison and Elvin Jones on some of modern jazz's most important recordings plus a good number of out-takes and some experimentation.

Finally, if you think that Christian McBride stretches the jazz boundaries, how about Lester Bowie, who currently features on two recent releases from Warners. The Art Ensemble of Chicago release Coming Home Jamaica features the joyously brassy stuff for which he is known.

Roger Trapp

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