Brian Hughes

One 2 One

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Blame Brian Hughes' glorious inability to express himself in a singular style on the record store he worked at in Edmonton during his mid-teens. Having visualized his future playing guitar onstage since age 12, the Canadian native started with rock, copping licks off Eric Clapton and Jimi Hendrix. He then explored the jazz aisle, emulating Wes Montgomery and Grant Green, whose influences are obvious on the three discs, beginning with 1990's Between Dusk and Dreaming, that have made Hughes a smooth jazz staple, as well as his new One 2 One (Higher Octave). But that was just the beginning of his quest. Accordingly, all of Hughes' albums follow the notion of genre busting; One 2 One carries on that irresistible cultural diversity, often within the same tune. On "Postcard From Brazil," Hughes runs all over South America; he improvises away from the main melody often over a spry samba groove, then breaks away for an in your face Latin-flavored chorus featuring a picante-hot duet between pianist Les Portelli and percussionist Dafnis Prieto Rodriguez. Hughes invokes three frantically dueling styles on "Oh Yeah!," which has a five-piece soul horn section (think James Brown) intermingling with dense salsa percussion over an underpinning of hard to contain blues organ riffs, to which Portelli adds a lively piano improvisation. A horn-drenched Latin-blues-soul vibe propels "Nothing in this World" as well. While the laid-back, summery and not terribly exotic title track proves that Hughes can find a happy middle ground between conventional smooth jazz and his own wanderlust, the disc's most unique tune, "While the World Slowly Turns," is an intriguing ticket to the Zen twilight zone. This one breaks all the rules of the airplay-conscious genre, centering on the type of hypnotic guitar/subtle percussion locomotion that characterizes some of Pat Metheny's easier going works, and stretching lazily over eight minutes, it features a 5/4 shuffle beat, spacy, floating atmospheres, and a sparkling Lyle Mays-esque piano solo by Portelli. Hughes calls it One 2 One's "sorbet between main courses," but the guitarist's no holds barred soloing combined with dark, haunting symphonic textures also make it one of the best tunes Metheny never wrote.

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