The Hughes/Smith Quintet. The HSQ is a Detroit-based jazz quintet that performs original music with purpose. The group is spearheaded by Saxophonist James Hughes & trumpeter Jimmy Smith and features the rhythm section of Phil Kelly, Takashi Iio and Nate Winn. The quintet formed in the autumn of 2012 with the purpose of promoting their brand of Detroit be-bop. Fresh tunes, tight ensemble work, intriguing solos, and a band with personality and swing are among the group’s trademarks.
“…inspired by the grand Motor City jazz scene of the 1950s and early ‘60s, these players update and extend that tradition with excellent writing, arranging, and playing for the 21st century.”
-Thom Jurek, allmusic.com
The Hughes/Smith Quintet has performed at several notable jazz clubs like The Dirty Dog Jazz Cafe, The Bop Stop, Cliff Bell’s, Jazz Cafe at Music Hall, Motor City Wine, Cadieux Cafe, Black Lotus Brewery, and sets at the Michigan Jazz Festival, Experience Art Live Royal Oak Festival, St Columban Concert Series, and the Opportunity Detroit Concert Series. They have three recordings, FROM HERE ON OUT (2013) and EVER UP & ONWARD (2015). which made AllMusic’s “Favorite Jazz Album” of 2015 list and has been played on over 100 radio stations throughout the United States. Their new album, MOTION (2018), finds the quintet continuing to bring us hip jazz sounds through original compositions and outstanding playing.
Saxophonist James Hughes and Trumpeter Jimmy Smith have collaborated for a third time with the release of Motion. Their book of originals has continued to expand thus necessitating an album to document their growth as a band and as individuals. The group has been mixing straight ahead jazz from the ‘70s into their regular repertoire, which has influenced their compositions and approach. Hughes and Smith have blended the high energy, deep grooves, colors, and textures of this period in jazz with their own modern sensibilities.
The Hughes/Smith Quintet is a working band, playing festivals and club dates continually since 2013. The collection of tunes on Motion is a result of slowly working in each one on live gigs, until they were refined and polished. They called upon their original band-mates to record this new set of tunes. Phil Kelly, a long time Detroit staple on piano, expands his reach to masterfully incorporate the Fender Rhodes on a few tracks. Bassist Takashi Iio and drummer Nate Winn lay down thick grooves and provide all-kinds of fire with fresh, interactive, and innovative playing.
The all-original tunes, were written with very specific things in mind. James and Jimmy have stories to tell, on and off the bandstand. Their tunes tell a few of these stories. Composed with the listener in mind, each track has a distinct vibe and paints a sonic scene. “Runaround” composed by Smith is a funky, high-spirited, time-shifting piece with an infectious bass line and slithery melody written for the crazy times he had spent teaching music in public schools.
The introspective “Rue” composed by Hughes is a ‘drum and bass’ tune that pictures the confluence of fear and hope through the soaring melody played by whispering tones of muted trumpet and tenor saxophone against the tolling chords played by piano and bass. The quintet doesn’t lose sight of its roots in Detroit hard-bop, and comes out swinging hard on “Intersections,” with a dazzling solo by Kelly on piano.
At the heart of what makes Hughes and Smith tick, is how they play together. “Waxwing” is a prime example of how they breath, phrase and articulate in unison, blending their distinct and personal sounds to form new colors, separate parts are combined to achieve a higher goal.
Like different gears interlocked, each composition spins and creates its own momentum while driving the next. The result is Motion, a highly tuned machine that you will want to take for a spin around the block…more than a few times.