It’s been eight years since Brian Hughes entered a recording studio to document his own music. He’s been busy, recording and touring with fellow Canadian Loreena McKennitt, and they’ve made some beautiful sounds together. His return, though, is welcome news for a small subset of contemporary jazz aficionados who build shrines to Pat Metheny’s two Brazilian-inspired CDs and pop-jazz gems from George Benson, Larry Carlton, Chris Standring and, lately, Ken Navarro.
It’s hard to write a review of a Hughes album without using the words “anthemic” or “lyrical,” but that’s just what Hughes is. All of his trademarks are here, from the gliding, long-held notes of “Fast Train”; the Latin interplay and acoustic guitar of “Would You Like Fries With That My Dear?” and “Café Sin Nombre”; and the close-your-eyes, dreamy charm of “A Blanket of Stars” and “You & I.” He brings out the rock ax for the bluesy “Super Tight” and the soaring “Hallelujah,” and an electric sitar on “The Gift,” an inspiring track in which technical skill doesn’t get in the way of passion. This is a spectacular CD from one of contemporary jazz’s most underrated players.