JAZZ & BLUES

Trumpeter Guy Barker is a firm favourite of the British jazz scene, possessed of a fine tone and a lack of stuffiness that has led to him performing plenty of r'n'b with Verve label-mates Van Morrison and Georgie Fame. And that eclecticism is apparent on his new record, What Love Is. It's a lush affair, full of ballads and strings, but although there are nods to the greats in the form of renditions of material from Billy Strayhorn and Duke Ellington, Barker shows his pop sensibility by getting Sting along to sing on the title track.

Meanwhile, another trumpeter, the highly regarded Terrell Stafford, brings the Candid Records Festival to a climax at the Pizza Express Jazz Club, Dean Street, W1 tonight.

At the Blackheath Concert Halls on Thursday, adopted Brit Carleen Anderson plays in support of her much-praised recent Virgin album Blessed Burden. A former "voice" of the Young Disciples, she has recently won a certain amount of cred through being taken up by Paul Weller.

Much less contemporary but still highly vibrant are two offerings from veteran bluesman Pinetop Perkins. Pianist Perkins' Verve/Gitanes offering Sweet Black Angel finds him accompanied by old Muddy Waters band-mates Calvin Jones and Willie Smith, plus a bunch of younger players, led by guitarists Duke Robillard and Bob Margolin, on a set mostly composed of classics like "Five Long Years" and "Look on Yonder Wall". Enjoyable as this set is, it is shaded by Down in Mississippi, recently released by HMG/Hightone. Recorded in 1996 and 1997, this disc finds Perkins - accompanied by just his own piano this time - in fine voice and pounding out the blues with that heavy left hand that is one of the last surviving links with the idiom's origins.

Dave Myers, who as a member of the Aces, played a major role in the development of Chicago blues in the 1950s, is also on great fettle on his Black Top release You Can't Do That. By throwing in New Orleans rockers such as Fats Domino's "Please Don't Leave Me", as well as original blues, he shakes off any idea that this is some kind of archaeological project. But Myers is much more of a sideman by nature and so his effort lacks the presence that makes the Perkins sets so engaging, nay essential.

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