Live review

Hakan Başar Trio at Pizza Express (2019 EFG LJF)

Hakan Başar Trio
Pizza Express, London Jazz Festival, 15 November. Review by Mike Collins)

It’s Friday lunch-time and in Soho’s Pizza Express Jazz Club, the 2019 edition of the London Jazz Festival is kicking off. Bold, rippling chords from the piano and darting, crystalline runs across the keyboard sketch out Michel Petrucciani’s Mike Pee, then the rumination morphs into Round Midnight, and that is unpacked with dense moving harmony and sparkling, boppish bursts. It’s an absorbing start.

Hakan Başar (Publicity photo)

Concentrate on the pianist and there’s a surprise. Just turned 15, Hakan Başar is on his first trip out of his native Turkey, never mind his first gig at an International Jazz Festival. Ubuntu Records have just signed him up to release and promote his debut album after Hakan had made contact with label boss Martin Hummel through Facebook. This gig is a chance for a healthy-sized lunchtime audience to hear what it was that caught Hummel’s ear.

Bass player Halil Çağlar Serin and drummer Ferit Odman join Hakan on stage and the trio launch into a blistering version of Cousin Mary followed by a shuffling grooving take on Hub Art, Hakan’s headlong soloing is full of bluesey inflections and turns. The long snaking bop line of Lucky Thompson’s Tricotism is doubled with the bass. Then the singular vibe and sound of Poinciana brings another dimension to the set as the solo evolves. Phrases develop and change shape, passages of block chords play with the rhythm. Then they breeze through a Parker tune Segment, before delivering a heartfelt reading of Oscar Peterson’s Hymn to Freedom they close the set on another Petrucciani tune, the title track of the trio’s album On The Roof. The appealing melody evokes a playful joyful response from Hakan.

Speaking to Hakan, he talks about Petrucciani as an important reference point on his journey into jazz, part of his guitarist father’s music collection and repertoire played on gigs together since his pre-teen years. There’s something of the late french pianist’s exuberance and fluidity in his playing, though with a somewhat more delicate touch. The second set leaves no doubt that there’s a formidable talent, one that has caught the attention of some notable figures including Ahmed Jamal.

The trio go up a gear in this set, and change tone slightly with a blistering post-bop charge through Petrucciani’s Hommage A Enelram Atsenig, a lyrical, singing take on Blackbird and an organic and dynamic account of Greensleeves. They play out on a medley that starts with a frenetic Freedom Jazz Dance and ends on C Jam Blues.

Hakan is playing music that moves and excites him and it takes the audience along. This was the start of the festival, and it was also a big step on what should be a long journey on the international jazz stage for the young pianist.

Mike Collins is a pianist and writer based in Bath, who runs the jazzyblogman site. Twitter @jazzyblogman

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