I saw Gaz Hughes’s trio three years ago at the Davenham Players Theatre when they formed half of a sextet with horn players Alan Barnes, Bruce Adams and Dean Masser. The band delivered numbers from Hughes’ 2018 album, Gaz Hughes Sextet Plays Art Blakey, and the gig was great.
Hughes is inspired by melodic drummers such as Max Roach, Philly Joe Jones and Jimmy Cobb. He was the inaugural drummer in the Matthew Halsall Band and performed in the latter’s early Gondwana label recordings.
His trio released their first album Beboperation in May 2022 with arrangements of standards by composers such as Johnny Green, Rodgers & Hart, Sonny Rollins and Duke Ellington. It was only issued as a digital download. In their new CD, Beboptical Illusion, seven of the eight compositions are originals penned by Hughes. The “non-original” is an arrangement of the Ellington classic, Sophisticated Lady.
The bebop-influenced title track is bright and happy, like the rest of the album. It’s followed by Concorde, a hard-bop foot-tapper with Andrzej Baranek forceful on piano and Hughes marvellously rhythmic on drums. The pace slows in Edith with its mesmeric melody centring on a quietly pulsing ostinato shared by piano, bass and drums. It’s succeeded by the climactic Laurie with fluent piano and an expressive bass / drums dualogue.
Sophisticated Lady has exquisite piano, softly swinging drums and eloquent bass soloing from Ed Harrison. Then the busy but melodic Sticks & Stones has each instrument taking the lead in turn with the band somehow sounding bigger than a trio. It’s followed by an energetic journey, To The Moon And Back with intricate percussive piano, galvanic drumming and sprightly bass solo. Lastly, The Verdict displays supple pianism, articulate bass and propulsive drums.
The trio’s high level of swing and musicality is impressive. They’re currently on a 30-date UK tour to promote the new album and Gaz Hughes tells me that because it’s going so well they’re extending the tour into the autumn and into Europe. If you want to catch them live, the details are on his website – gazhughesmusic.com.
Beboptical Illusion; Concorde; Edith; Laurie; Sophisticated Lady; Sticks & Stones; To The Moon And Back; The Verdict (49.49)
Hughes (d); Andrzej Baranek (p); Ed Harrison (b). UK, August 2022.