When Trio HLK were putting together the wishlist for guests on their debut album, they figured they may as well aim high.
So no-one was more surprised than them when both their targets, saxophonist Steve Lehman and renowned percussionist Dame Evelyn Glennie, agreed to come on board.
Named for their surnames, pianist Rich Harrold, guitarist Ant Law and Richard Kass on drums and percussion, the Edinburgh-based contemporary jazz group are playing at this year’s Petworth Festival with Dame Evelyn.
Harrold says: ‘We decided very early on that we wanted to get some guests in. It’s quite a good thing to do on a debut album, to build some associations. The music itself is quite heavily based on contemporary classical music, but there’s a lot of improv and jazz language, so we wanted to get some guests who might reflect that dual nature of the music. We thought we’d aim high as high as possible and see what happens.’
‘Steve has been one of my heroes for a long time – he’s one of the most important figures in contemporary jazz, and Dame Evelyn is obviously Dame Evelyn! We fired out some e-mails and amazingly they were both up for it. We were really lucky, but I guess they found what we were doing interesting.’
With Lehman living in California, they collaborated electronically, but Dame Evelyn invited the band down to her studio in Cambridgeshire to record.
‘She’s got this incredible studio set-up with every percussion instrument you could imagine and more and this beautiful piano and all the rest of it, it was pretty cool.’
The collaboration was only originally intended to be in the studio, but as Rich explains: ‘We hadn’t really thought about performing live, that came about as a consequence of recording together, so initially I just sent her the music, she practiced her parts and we recorded it for the album.
‘As we started talking more and started talking about maybe playing live… The live shows have massively changed from the recordings. There’s so much extra stuff she’s bringing to it, every rehearsal she’ll come in with something else, it’s incredibly creative and collaborative.
‘Even at the gigs, she’s constantly throwing new things out there.
‘It basically took us the best part of two years to get the music together as a trio, then she’s come in and got it together so quickly. She’s incredibly humble and self-deprecating, very easy to work with, and very creative. It’s the ideal situation really.’
The album, Standard Time, was released in May through Ubuntu Music, which has an impressive roster of jazz acts from Chet Baker to Flying Machines. ‘Martin Hummel, who runs the label, he already had a relationship with Ant Law, they knew each other. Ant sent them the music, we had a chat on Skype and he was up for putting it out. We’ve been quite lucky like that.’ But Rich is quick to add: ‘We work very hard on everything. It’s definitely not felt like it’s just been serendipitous.’
And the trio aim to be on the road for a while yet, supporting the album.
‘We’re getting a lot of bookings for next year already,’ adds Rich. ‘A lot of the live dates we’ve done we’ve had good reviews, so hopefully people are starting to take notice now.’
European shows are in the works, and they already have the second album in mind.
‘I don’t like to plan things in too much detail for the long term. The idea is to keep things evolving and developing; see what happens, basically.’
This year’s Petworth Festival is the event’s 40th. it runs until August 4, and features shows from Alistair McGowan, Gyles Brandreth and Paul Merton, with classical music from international stars Steven Isserlis, Elin Manahan Thomas, Ji Liu and The King’s Singers, as well as its jazz and world music programmes, and more.
TRIO HLK with DAME EVELYN GLENNIE
St Mary’s Church, Petworth
Sunday, July 29