If the essence of jazz is spontaneity, the stubborn refusal to play the same number twice in the same way, then the two acts that closed the South Coast Jazz Festival must be considered the genre's antithesis.

The Mingus Underground Octet mined the labyrinthine oeuvre of a truculent talent while Peter Long's Echoes Of Ellington provided a tour d'horizon of the Duke's early years.

Of the pair, the former felt the more satisfying.

Alto saxophonist Andy Pickett stripped down the wayward melodies and polyrhythmic structure of Mingus's breathtakingly original compositions and reassembled them in a refreshing manner.

Highlights on the night were Fables Of Faubus, a caustic blast at the endemic racism of the United States, and Better Git It In Your Soul which featured a howling solo from tenor saxophonist Terry Pack.

Echoes Of Ellington proved a more insouciant experience.

Peter Long was an amusing raconteur and a virtuoso clarinet and sax player. He led his impeccable musicians in a tribute to a jazz legend with aplomb.

A standout performance was East St Louis Toodle O, a number which was as pleasing on the ear as it was fiendish to perform.

Is Duke Ellington relevant in the 21st century? You might as well ask is Mozart pertinent, for Ellington was as transcendental a genius as the Austrian wunderkind. His music will always withstand the deference of posterity.