JAZZ & BLUES

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The Independent Culture
The continuing enthusiasm for Latin-tinged jazz should bring the crowds out in force to Camden's Jazz Cafe tonight as Johnny Blas, the Los Angeles conga player with a mounting reputation, comes to town in support of his latest CuBop release, Mambo 2000. There is more in the same vein tomorrow, when the same venue welcomes another mighty percussionist, Pucho. A veteran of the New York dance scene of the late 1960s, he appears with the Latin Soul Brothers and is supported by DJs Snowboy and Phil Levene.

Meanwhile, Ronnie Scott's, Frith Street plays host - for the second week - to the fine pianist Cedar Walton. Leading a quartet that includes the rising young tenor player Javon Jackson, the hugely experienced Walton has long been lauded by his fellow musicians, but is generally under-appreciated by the world at large. Though much of his finest work was done as a sideman at Blue Note in the late 1950s and early 1960s, he has made a wonderful collection of varied records - with sessions from the 1970s and 1990s collected on Firm Roots, a good-value double-CD recently brought out by re-issue specialist 32 Records and released in Britain by BMG.

On the blues front, the US independent label Antone's breaks one of its periods of silences with very different releases from two veterans. Syl Johnson's Bridge to a Legacy features his daughter and the teenage hot- shot guitarist Jonny Lang, but still manages to evoke the Hi recordings on which he was a soul-blues challenger to Al Green.

Pete Mayes is old enough to have played in Houston in the 1950s with the likes of Percy Mayfield and T-Bone Walker. Though his record, For Pete's Sake, is loaded with the horns-backed ringing guitar sounds long associated with Texas blues, it is much more than a museum piece. With talented accompanists such as Derek O'Brien, Gene Taylor and Mark Kazanoff all involved, this is a highly enjoyable top-quality set.

Roger Trapp

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