If you long for Pat Metheny's Chataugua period, then Brian Hughes' latest, Fast Train to a Quiet Place, is just what you've been waiting for, though the guy also plays with a lot of latinate influences, cool jazz modes, and Carlton / Ritenour / Khan mellifluity. I caught Metheny before he was a known commodity, tripping up to UCLA's Royce Hall to see Oregon, one of the greatest musical groups this country's ever produced. Gary Burton was headlining, and I knew Burton and Ralph Towner (Oregon) would have to meet in the encore to do some of their magical ECM duet materials, but what surprised me was that Gary had brought along not just one guitarist, Mick Goodrick, but a new guy as well, Metheny. Picture it: Ralph Towner, Mick Goodrick, and Metheny all on the same stage on the same night. Yow! Well, Brian Hughes would've fit right in.
The guy's acoustic work is as meticulous as his electric and often treads into Earl Klugh territory with a lot of Gil / Gilberto adjuncts, not to mention the side measure of Airto and Hermeto Pascoal in Would You Like Fries with That, my Dear?, Ron Powell just killer-delightful on percussive allsorts. Hughes' quartet is not unlike Metheny's early accompanists either: lots of great sophisticated grooves and keyboardist Matt Rohde more than once gets Lyle Mays-y in his flights of improv. Atmospherics are crucial here, as each cut creates complete environments, muted and misty but with tropical hedonism lurking just beneath the surface, particularly in cuts like A Blanket of Stars with its languidly sensual hooks and refrains.
Jazziz magazine chose Hughes as the winner of its Guitars On Fire competition in the early 90s, and his CDs caught a great deal of airplay in North America. Then came no less than seven SOCAN / BMI awards for Jazz & Instrumental Composer of the Year followed by work for the Chieftains and Loreena McKennitt. The guy does not lack for respect in the music world, but Fast Train dwells in a place apart and should be taken on its own abundant merits, often weaving Hughes tracking himself on multiple guitars for interweaving lines and colorations. Fusion hasn't died yet, thank Christ, and this is one of the reasons why.
Edited by: David N. Pyles
Copyright 2011, Peterborough Folk Music Society.
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