The Hopkins-Hammond Trio at CICCIC, Taunton

The Bristol-based guitar, organ and drum trio lit up the Taunton arts centre with a cooking set of soulful, blues-infused hard bop

The Hopkins-Hammond Trio at Taunton, January 2023. Photo by Barry Witherden

Taunton’s CICCIC (or, to give it its full formal moniker, the Creative Innovation Centre Community Interest Company) is a valuable asset of the area, ploughing all profits (if any) back into community projects and services.

It has helped in the creation of new social enterprises and businesses but for many of us non-enterprising locals it is most appreciated for providing a welcoming rehearsal space and for its programme of live events, including dance, theatrical and musical, not least its Sunday lunchtime jazz sessions. Most recently it hosted a well-attended and highly appreciated session by the Hopkins-Hammond Trio.

The trio was formed in Bristol in 2016, and the first session worked so well that the group has become a permanent unit, consisting of Matt Hopkins (guitar), Ruth Hammond (organ) and Scott Hammond (drums). Hopkins has played with, amongst many others, Andy Sheppard and Dave Newton.

Scott has been working in the rock field but has excellent jazz chops too, which he has exercised with, to name just a few, Alan Barnes, Tina May, Jason Rebello and Nigel Price. Ruth sings and plays piano and saxophone as well as organ: she kicked off her career by becoming runner-up in the Young Jazz Musician of the Year, playing tenor sax.

Ruth has released a solo album, All The Good Things, and there was no shortage of good things in this session. The programme included a number of fine originals as well as some old warhorses draped in imaginative arrangements.

The trio effortlessly and convincingly develops tunes from neo-hard-bop passages via episodes saturated with blues and soul feeling, a process that was especially well-demonstrated on an impressive version of All the Things You Are and the encore, a mesmerising expedition with Tizol and Ellington’s Caravan. Amongst other highlights were Jobim’s Triste and Ruth’s Stick, dedicated to her father who always told her to “stick with it.”

Notwithstanding her surname, Ruth H plays a Viscount Legend rather than the legendary Hammond B3, getting a similarly big sound, whether contributing strong accompaniments or exhilarating solos. Scott H’s drumming is powerful, crisp, flexible and agile, pretty much everything you want from a jazz percussionist. Hopkins usually kicks off the round of solos, producing intricate, complex choruses which evolve with clarity and logic and never get bogged down in their own dexterity.

The Hopkins-Hammond Trio at CICCIC, Taunton, 8 January 2023

For a taste of the Hopkins-Hammond Trio, check its showreel: