The melodic collaborations of the Hughes Smith Quintet fuse funk, bebop, and easy listening to form a type of jazz where storytelling is its primary impetus. Their latest release, Motion, is a 10-track CD, featuring numbers that each tell their own individual narrative. The band’s jamming creates a playful dialogue among the musicians, sewn together by chord movements and transitional phrases. Saxophonist James Hughes, trumpet player Jimmy Smith, pianist Phil Kelly, bassist Takashi Iio, and drummer Nate Winn produce melodic shifts that affect the audience, as they mingle and entwine to the listener’s pleasure.
Each track is a leisurely stroll, and the instruments swivel and swirl at a comfortable pace. “Waxwing” is cradled in the soft tremors of the bass and drums, as the saxophone and trumpet mold a series of rumba-like steps that emit positive vibes from every pore of the arrangement. Light and fluffy, the composition seeps of pleasurable aesthetics, which is a recurring theme throughout the recording.
The bubbly tempo of “Sidamo” is a revival of ’60s burlesque, fashioned from the sensual slither of Smith’s horn and the perky doodles of Kelly’s keys. The gentle pirouettes of the saxophone sashaying across “Elizabeth” are contoured by the light drizzle of the keys, making for a cozy sonic respite. The blissful strokes of the sax ruminate with a casual gait along “Rue,” as though moving in a stargazing state.
“Promenade with Molly” moves in a similar daydreamy trance, driven by the waltzing stride of the saxophone. The whipping pace of Winn’s drums jamming along “Gig Fries” is bookended by the saxophone’s flourishing swirls, making for an unique bebop-inspired piece. The recording closes with the stirring shifts of the saxophone and the funky grooves of bass and drums, giving “Chips and Slaw” a continuous stream of enthusiasm.
The quintet’s collection of all original tunes sculpts a playful interaction, composing dialogues that affect the listener positively. The melodic collaborations range from daydreamy to homespun jam sessions, always keeping the listener engaged and in-tune to the music.
James Hughes – saxophones, Jimmy Smith – trumpet, cornet, and flugelhorn, Phil Kelly – piano and Fender Rhodes, Takashi Iio – bass, and Nate Winn – drums