Los Angeles based guitarist, composer and producer Brian Hughes, who is best known for his long standing work with vocalist Loreena McKennitt, grew up in Alberta, Canada and studied at Grant McKewan College, the Banff School of Fine Arts and the Guitar Institute. He comes forward again on Fast Train To A Quiet Place with a recording that is full of his unmistakable and ever lovely musical elements.
Melodically Hughes has a penchant for playing lines that are hypnotic, ostinato oriented, fusion infused and have a soulfully subtle romantic character. This is not smooth jazz, instead it's music that draws its strengths from swaying rhythmic beats that are both tightly constructed and open ended at the same time.
On this recording Hughes is expertly accompanied by keyboardist Matt Rodhe of Prince and Christina Aguilera, drummer Tal Bergma of Joe Bonamassa and Rod Stewart, percussionist Ron Powell of Kenny G and Madonna, and bassist Rufus Philpot of Al DiMeola and Jeff Golub.
Perhaps the most adventurous track is "A Blanket Of Stars." Here Hughes opens up his improvisational bag of linearly sloping lines to greatest effect. Walking out on a ledge harmonically, yet always being firmly grounded by Bergma's extraordinarily mesmorizing drumming that not only keeps Hughes grounded but also provides him with points of rhythmic emphasis upon which he is able to push off with his long flowing lines, Hughes fashions lines that are more expressions than theoretically analyzable phrases.
The clever quasi-Latin "Would You Like Fries With That My Dear?" is another enthralling rhythmic ride. This time using the color of the acoustic guitar, Hughes paints a tapestry of shifting washes and turns of phrase which could not be covered so delicately or precisely in the hands of lesser musicians. Powell's talking drum moment, following Hughes' solo, is tasteful and hip at the same time.
While guitarists will come to this recording because of Hughes' status as a guitar deity, it will be his melodic inventiveness that will capture most listeners. Able to handle the demands of being accessible to average listeners and seasoned guitar aficionados at the same time is no easy feat, but one which Hughes consistently pulls off on all his recordings. This recording is not just highly recommended, but in this era of jazz either being too watered down or to elite, Hughes strikes the right balance.