The Fred Hughes Trio creates grand flourishes throughout their recording Matrix, intermingling jump blues, vintage bop, and jazz combo momentum. The trio reinterprets an assortment of works by such jazz pioneers as Bill Evans, Chick Corea, Dave Brubeck, and Herbie Hancock in addition to tinkering with selections by Bach and Tchaikovsky. The trio’s repartee focuses on maintaining a catchy rhythm that incites listeners to move in time, whether it’s their ballroom jive beat or torchlight-laden ripples. Reminiscent of theme songs in the vane of such 1930s screwball comedies as The Awful Truth and You Can’t Take It with You, the Fred Hughes Trio coalesces big band-based jazz with adult contemporary sensibilities, making for arrangements influenced by the great bop performers while infusing their own signature into the material.
The rhythmic beats of “Sicily” have Latin intonations fashioned by the salsa shimmies of the percussion entwined in a pulsating piano vamp. The soft, fluid phrasing of Hughes’ piano coasting along “B Minor Waltz” has a ballroom serenade inclination as the inflections of Amy Shook’s bass bow and retract, weaving silky strands across the piece. The twirling keys of the piano strolling across “Dolphin Dance” are embroidered in a bopping bass line, traversing into the jumping keys of “Two Part Invention, No. 4,” a Johann Sebastian Bach masterpiece, which is supported by a marching cadence in Frank Russo’s drum beats. The piece has overtones of classic Bach intermingled with jazz combo stylistics. Conversely, the dark lamenting tone in the keys retooling Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky’s “Andante Cantabile” permeates a funeral dirge ambiance as the bass sobs gently in the lower register.
The trio picks up the tempo in the title track, spruced up by agile drumbeats and bop-imbued keys driving a big band momentum. The graceful strokes of the piano flourishes floating across “Waltse for Dave” emboss an opulent air in the track as the thrusting beats of “Watermelon Man” exude a vintage jive jazz pump. “Samba Song” pairs Latin dance with jazz combo improvisations while the somber ruminations of the bass trundling along “We Will Meet Again” are interlaced with the optimistic pitch of the keys. The big band-enriched blazes of the rhythm section anchoring “I Got Rhythm” are accentuated by twinkling keys, giving the Gershwin’s brothers’ trademark piece a modern jazz boost. The trio maintains this upward surge with “Now He Sings, Now He Sobs” and “Room 608,” powered by a bopping spring in the rhythmic beats.
The trio’s rapport is congenial as they venture off into terrain outside of the perimeters of the originals that they retool. The musicians direct the course of the tracks by milling new passages driven by their individual contributions, showing the pliability of arrangements that others have considered as being written in stone.
Fred Hughes – piano, Amy Shook – bass, Frank Russo – drums
“I Got Rhythm,” “Now He Sings, Now He Sobs,” “Room 608,” “B Minor Waltz,” “In Your Own Sweet Way,” “Sicily,” “Dolphin Dance,” “Two Part Invention. No. 4,” “Andante Cantabile,” “Matrix,” “Waltse for Dave,” “Watermelon Man,” “Samba Song,” “We Will Meet Again”