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All that jazz and that rock and classical

A particularly frenetic week at The Sage Gateshead climaxes this weekend with the second Gateshead International Jazz Festival at the venue.

A particularly frenetic week at The Sage Gateshead climaxes this weekend with the second Gateshead International Jazz Festival at the venue.

In my experience, jazz fans tend to be particularly dyed-in-the-wool. Trad and freeform factions might not meet over an interval pint.

The line-up for the Gateshead festival seems particularly eclectic and is likely to be a red rag to at least one bullish set of jazz diehards.

Esbjörn Svensson, one of the festival's main attractions, will have no truck with any of this. While countless websites refer to him as a celebrated jazz pianist from Sweden, he goes out of his way to cite his other musical loves and influences.

"I'm not only into jazz but also classical music and rock and roll," he says from his home across the water.

"My parents played jazz records at home and my mother played classical piano and I also grew up with a lot of British rock and roll that I heard on the radio - bands like Slade and Deep Purple."

His trio, e.s.t., has earned critical acclaim across Europe for albums and live performances which include smoke, video and light.

e.s.t. has a history that makes the apparent trickery forgivable. "We have been together for years," says Svensson. "In fact, me and the drummer, Magnus (Ostrom), grew up together in the same small village. When we started out we were playing some kind of home-made pop music. We were joined by the bass player (Dan Berglund) and if you listen to our earlier albums, there's no doubt about it - it's definitely jazz. We were inspired by the likes of Bill Evans and Thelonious Monk (famous and influential late jazz pianists).

"No doubt about it, what we play is jazz. But over the years we have developed our own style of playing rather than try to conform to other people's way of playing."

As for the smoke and film accompaniment, he insists: "Everything we do is meant to support the music. It isn't music with film."

He has no need to apologise. So many people have bought into the e.s.t. way that the trio is in high demand. The current tour begins tonight in Ireland with the Gateshead gig the first of six on the British mainland. See e.s.t. in Hall One on Saturday with the Chris Bowden Trio.

The festival begins tomorrow night with the BBC Big Band and guests Phil Wood (sax) and singer Lea deLaria in Hall One and, in Hall Two, Byron Wallen's Meeting Ground (sounds inspired by Africa) followed by Bull Bruford (late of King Crimson, Genesis and Yes) on stage with Dutch pianist Michiel Borstlap.

Saturday highlights include Kidsamonium, Ian Carr (trumpeter, composer) and Gilles Peterson. On Sunday we have Andy Sheppard, the Voice of the North jazz orchestra, the Branford Marsalis Quartet and Campbell Burnap's tribute to trombone legend Jack Teagarden.

For full details of the festival, pick up a brochure at The Sage Gateshead or visit www.thesagegateshead.org .  Box office: 0191 443 4661.

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