Live review of Trio HLK, at The Jazz Bar, Edinburgh, Thursday 21st April 2022.

Witnessing the emergence and evolution of a high quality band is always a great pleasure and privilege, which is heightened when the music is as unusual as Trio HLK’s.
Those who have followed this Scotland-based band over the last half dozen years or more will know that the trio’s MO is to deconstruct jazz Standards – I understand pianist Rich Harrold is primary composer – then in collaboration with drummer Rich Kass shifting tempos and polyrhythms are developed. Twelve-string guitarist Ant Law brings his fleet-fingered mighty talent to bear and each take turn to stir some accomplished improvisations into the mix.
Intellectually challenging and hugely rewarding listening for last night’s mostly attentive audience, it was a joy to note the evolution evident in the band’s newer pieces. It was also a great pleasure to hear what this reviewer perceived as a greater confidence in both Harrold’s composing and pianism.
The two sets featured a successful mixture of tunes from the trio’s debut album ‘Standard Time’ and new compositions. The Jazz Bar’s relaxed rule about audience noise during performances is a mixed blessing: with complex charts to read and listen to, the first set was impacted somewhat by audience chatter. Nevertheless some fine playing including improvisations were delivered, notably in ‘Dux’ by Kass.
Another old favourite ‘Smalls’ (based on ‘Blue In Green’) with a beautiful and accomplished solo from Harrold, opened the second set, and was followed by three new tunes.
‘Apostrophe’ (based on Thelonious Monk’s ‘Epistrophy’) again showcased Harrold’s impressive pianism, while ‘Giant Steps’ allowed each of the trio to demonstrate their considerable chops. The final, standout tune of the evening, ‘Stella By Starlight’ ended this evening of riches on a dramatic high.
Trio HLK’s sound is defined by its host of polyrhythmic intersections, with stuttering tempo and rhythm changes, highly dramatic build-ups and releases, everything contained by those internalised-of-old Standards melodies and harmonies, which are here dismantled in a truly beautiful way. The cleverness and satisfying mathematics of it all, together with the level of musicianship makes for an outstandingly rich audience experience.
No other jazz band in the UK sounds quite like Trio HLK, and if you don’t believe me, snap up their next album (coming soon one hopes) or get along to their live show.
Phone snaps by FM.

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