If you are looking for an inventive bebop trio recording with some fresh and snappy compositions, then look no further.


Andrzej Baranek (piano); Ed Harrison (double bass); Gaz Hughes (drums)

Recorded August 2022

No illusion here, simply a good honest bebop trio recording with no frills attached. And all the better for it. This is wonderful album and those who have been following the drummer’s progress of late will appreciate this new release and placing it in context is probably his best recording to date, but I’m guessing not as good as the next one.

In a short space of time as a bandleader in his own right, Gaz Hughes has worked incredibly hard promoting his brand of bebop and hard bop rooted jazz around the country and cementing his reputation with three excellent albums.

Hughes wears his heart on his sleeve and his love of the music shines through. If you think that bebop is passé and there is nothing left to say, then think again as there is a new generation of musicians coming through that are keeping the flame burning.

And keeping the flame burning is what Hughes and the trio do here in a set of originals that spark the imagination. There is a comforting familiarity about the way the music is presented, and some of the compositions recall other tunes form the bebop era; but before you can place your finger on it the music has morphed into something else.

This element of the familiar coupled with surprise keeps the music fresh and exhilarating, and in Hughes’s case constantly evolving. From his debut album, Gaz Hughes Sextet plays Art Blakey, the drummer set out his stall. Not a backseat driver, but one who firmly believes that the drummer can contribute more than just laying down the beat, Hughes makes his presence felt and this is to the benefit of all. He swings hard and brings a musical vocabulary to his playing that enhances the rhythm section, or in this case trio building a real three way dialogue.

What is refreshing to note is the continuity that Hughes brings to his music. The trio is the comprised of the same piano and bass team that worked so effectively with the drummer on the Plays Art Blakey album, and this empathy between the players has deepened considerably. Realising the potential, Hughes set about working straight away as a trio and the 2022 release Beboperation playing standards proved the drummer’s judgement to be spot on, and this new recording looks at continuing the progress made.

Often the decision to record a set of all mostly new compositions can be a dicey one, but fortune often favours the brave and Beboptical Illusion features no less than seven new titles that positively sizzle with energy and a commitment to his chosen idiom.

The title track gets things off to a cracking start with a compelling theme and groove that sparks pianist Andrzej Baranek’s imagination from the outset is what is just one of many excellent solos. This is all propelled along by Hughes drumming along with some solid support and pertinent commentary from Ed Harrison on bass. ‘Laurie’ is in similar vein, and is that a hint of the Middle East that I hear in the theme?

In other news, ‘Sticks & Stones’ takes off from one of those melody lines that sticks in the mind, and ‘To The Moon & Back’ has a left hand bass riff from Baranek along with a dancing right hand figure that longs to break away from the vamp. When it does the tension is released with a lovely flowing solo which is superbly supported by Harrison’s inventive bass playing.

The closing ‘The Verdict’ has yet another of those melodic hooks that is difficult to shake off, and it does not take long for the jury to pronounce judgement on another deeply swinging piece of trio jazz that gets right to the heart of the music.

If you are looking for an inventive bebop trio recording with some fresh and snappy compositions, then look no further.

Reviewed by Nick Lea