One week into the Fringe, and nursing a bank balance that’s lower than my Facebook shares, I’m forced to witness the Brian Kellock Trio. Sober. As first world problems go, this is on a par with stepping into the shower without one’s shampoo. Still, a drop of lubrication to ease the cloying stuffiness of the bar on this balmy evening would not have gone amiss. Penury and sobriety aside, the stage is set for a fine hour’s entertainment courtesy of Edinburgh’s favourite jazz piano-playing son: Brian Kellock. Thankfully, it is not necessary to attain a state of stranger-hugging intoxication in order to appreciate this nimble trio of musicians. Humanity may not look too beguiling when viewed through the eyes of a sober drunk, but it still sounds pretty impressive if the BK Trio are anything to go by.
Accompanied by Kenny Ellis on bass and Ohio’s Tom Davis on guitar, the threesome languidly ease into their first number and we’re off. For the next hour, the trio leads the audience on a meandering journey through a half century of jazz, paying homage to the greats and the not-so-greats along the way. It’s an effortless tour de force, underpinned by Kellock’s free-flowing style that elicits shades of Cecil Taylor, New York’s free jazz pioneer. Fingers dance dexterously across keys and frets, with the mature musicians seemingly coaxing new notes out of old instruments and uncovering previously unchartered scales. Kellock’s polyrhythmic style is augmented by the taut double bass and minimalist guitar lines that effectively fill in the gaps.
The band have a knack for making the complex seem easy, their skills honed through years of performing together. Discordant scales are traversed in the blink of an eye; impossibly fast arpeggios are rendered impossibly faster still. Just when you think they can’t go any quicker, the trio accelerates, until every Saturday morning cartoon I’ve ever seen is coursing through my head. Occasionally, the bass solos get a little free and unfettered to follow, but for the most part, this is taut musicianship of the highest order.
For the majority of their set, the trio barely glance at one another; they’re all on the same page, even if they don’t need so much as a semiquaver of sheet music to guide them. If you like your jazz laid back, soulful and conducive to sipping on a very fine Chardonnay, you’ll appreciate the soothing sounds of the BK Trio. Despite being named after a fast food option typically served with fries and a shake, this is wholesome fare suitable for consumption by a wholesome audience. Visually, they may not present much of a spectacle, but sonically we are treated to a triumvirate of delights. That said, to the untrained ear, some of the trio’s output could be construed as self-indulgent widdling. It is only through complete immersion in this free-form art that the music’s intricate beauty starts to shine through. One day, I too hope to attain that heady state of musical enlightenment. Until then, my ignorant ears can only guess at the aural delights served up by the Brian Kellock Trio.