JAZZ AND BLUES

Far from being a dull hangover from the end-of-the-year festivities, the coming week kicks off another 12 months of jazz in fine style. Tonight sees the return to the concert stage of the prodigiously talented British pianist Jason Rebello. Though he has played a few club dates since ending his two-year isolation in a Buddhist monastery, the still-under-30 performer is using the South Bank's Purcell Room formally to reintroduce the world to his dazzling keyboard skills. The first set will see him perform solo his "Jazz Meditation", while for the second he will be joined by Wayne Batchelor on bass and Darren Beckett on drums. Meanwhile, on Monday, trumpeter Guy Barker, another of Britain's younger stars, begins a week at Ronnie Scott's with his quintet.

Anybody not yet able to face up to going out can bring home a little party atmosphere by acquiring the latest CD by the New Orleans Nightcrawlers. Aptly entitled Funknicity, this Rounder release is an infectious collection of originals, plus a funked-up rendition of the Average White Band's "Pick Up The Pieces". Of course, this young outfit makes a noise reminiscent of the likes of other modern New Orleans brass bands, such as the Dirty Dozen and the Rebirth, but there are traces of Charles Mingus and Blue Note-type bop in there, too.

Marcus Roberts is also steeped in the New Orleans tradition. For many years associated with fellow neo-traditionalist Wynton Marsalis, the pianist shares his soulmate's ambition as well as what some critics see as a certain sterility. The album Blues For the New Millennium (Columbia), actually appeared a little while back, but - as the title suggests - makes appropriate turn-of-the-year listening. In being dominated by blues - the first two tracks are by Robert Johnson and Jelly Roll Morton - it brings out a soulfulness not previously much apparent in this obviously highly talented musician's work.

Finally, for those seeking something a little quieter, there is Jeffrey Smith, a young singer in the Johnny Hartman mould who, on the album A Little Sweeter (Gitanes/Verve), puts a distinctive take on such well-known songs as "Eleanor Rigby" and "Love for Sale". A distinctly classy affair.

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