Fred Hughes: No Turning Back (2002)
Pianist Fred Hughes takes classic pop and jazz standards (interspersed with his original material) and puts them in a modern framework. The ability to do this is both a credit to the music and to the performer. The music because it needs to be able to sustain a contemporary interpretation and the musician because he can play this familiar material in such a way as to retain the interest of listeners who may be used to hearing them played differently. Listen to what he does with "My Romance", for example, which kicks off with a short drum solo by Frank Russo. Then there is Track 11 which is an untitled composition by Hughes, which is more in the modern vein than anything else on the CD, with the exception of a dazzling performance of Clare Fischer's "Pensativa" which the pianist, aided and abetted by his two playing mates, becomes a singular tour de force, with a strong, focused performance. There's a touch of funk, helped along by Steve Zerlin's bass on another Hughes original, "C'mon Let's Go". Hughes is anything but shy in his approach to the piano. He has the technical ability, the deftness of touch, and full control of the instrument in the manner laid down by such keyboard giants as Art Tatum, Errol Garner and Oscar Peterson. It's like if you don't like this chordal progression, wait a second or two and there will be another one coming right along.
Having the technical ability and feel for the music isn't enough. Hughes demonstrates that he has immeasurable confidence in his ability to use his skills to their fullest. This comes through on such tunes as a lilting "All The Things You Are" as he wends his way in, around and through snatches of bass by Zerlin and drum breaks by Frank Russo. This album is exciting with its fresh approach to the music and is the way a piano trio should sound. Highly recommended. Visit Fred at his web home, www.fredhughes.com.
Track Listing: Joy Spring; All the Things You Are; It's Easy to Remember; My Romance; Summer Rain; What Now; Lover Man; Pensativa; Cruisin' Home; C'mon Let's Go; Track 11 (untitled)
Personnel: Fred Hughes - Piano; Steve Zerlin - Bass; Frank Russo - Drums