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Rob Hughes


by Ian Mann

May 31, 2006


Much potential here, but not one for the jazz purist.

Quite frankly, even after several listens I still don’t know what to make of this album from the young, London based saxophonist Rob Hughes. The opening “Holding On” starts promisingly enough with Hughes’ smoky, gospel tinged tenor sax. However, he is soon joined by seventies style keyboards and programmed percussion which initially set my teeth on edge.

Superficially Hughes seems to operate in a similar area to Snake Davis who has already been reviewed elsewhere on this site. There is the same mix of jazz saxophone and pop and soul influences with a distinct seventies flavour.

“Oddity” sounds like the theme to a seventies cop show or sitcom with it’s retro moog solo. On “How You Dae” keyboard player Brian Henry makes use of a voice box which sounds as if it went out with The Ark or failing that, Peter Frampton.

And yet, and yet. Just when you’re on the brink of dismissing it as dinner party or elevator music this album has the knack of getting under your skin and staying there. The backing, which initially sounds bland and synthetic actually helps to emphasise the human cry of Hughes’ saxophone. He is highly competent on both tenor and soprano and his sharp, soulful playing is at the heart of each composition. A good deal of care has gone into the writing and slowly those arrangements start to grow on you.

There is a good deal of variety in the compositions. “How You Dae” and “Fives” are seriously funky. By way of contrast the atmospheric “Don’t Push” features the shimmering vibes of Henry Broadbent .“Living The Dream” features Hughes gentle flute in duet with Sam Edwards’ piano.

There are two vocal tracks. “Stepped Across The World” opens with a sample of our beloved PM speculating on the existence of weapons of mass destruction in Iraq. It may sound like a love song but the lines “You lied to me” and “I should have known better” allied to the opening sample suggest otherwise-a not so veiled attack on our leader delivered by Gwyn Jay Allen’s smooth vocals.

Daniel Walker provides the equally silky vocals on “Butterfly” a more straightforward paean to love and freedom. Both vocal interludes are brief and neither singer outstays their welcome.

After my initial misgivings I found myself enjoying this album more and more. It’s not one for the jazz purist and it treads a very fine line between substance and blandness.

I’d like to hear Hughes in a straight ahead jazz quartet or quintet as he is clearly a very good player technically, and it would be good to check him out as an improviser. However, there is still much potential in the style he has chosen here and his next move should be interesting.

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