Welcome to my website!  This is the home of Detroit Saxophonist James Hughes.

I recently released my second recording with co-leader Jimmy Smith titled EVER UP & ONWARD

“The Detroit jazz sound of the 1950s-‘60s becomes a whole other experience in the post-millennium in the care of Hughes…” {Carol Banks Weber, AXS.com 2016}

Make sure to check out my performance calendar and sign up for the mailing list!
AND please enjoy my blogs below...

Record Deal! 

The Hughes/Smith Quintet is very excited to announce that we have been signed by M1 Records!

We have put so much effort into our last two recordings, not to mention our own capital and hustle.  Now we have a machine behind us to help us do some of the heavy lifting. Nate and Sandy at M1 records are super cool dudes and I am so thankful to them for their trust and support in us.  It's going to be a fun endeavor and a great collaboration with those guys.

Getting beyond the initial excitement however, it is now time for Jimmy and I to start composing some tunes.  It's never any easy thing to write music on command, but I am up for the task.  I usually do my best when I saturate my ears with a bunch of different types of things then give myself the time to be quiet and compose inside my head (not decompose!).  So lately I have been listening to Sufjan Stevens, Tim Ries, Anton Webern, Andrew Hill, V.S.O.P., Mree, Frank Wess, and RH Factor.  It's an eclectic mix to say the least!

So far, nothing written.  But, stay tuned (no pun intended)... Jimmy and I plan on bringing a new tune to our gig at Motor City Wine on November 18th (shameless plug...we start at 9pm).

Thanks to all of you for the tremendous support through our last two recordings, you all mean more than you know! Keep your eyes peeled for the next one...



Learn From the Best: DEXTER GORDON 

Transcribing is still the best way to learn how to improvise.  Often times, I transcribe bits and pieces and never write anything down. My main goal is to quickly acquire small melodic phrases to use in my soloing, or to figure out just what that artist was playing for the sake of curiosity.  On occasion though, I will take the time to write out a solo in order to analyze it.  I'll just look and listen to it without trying to play it.  That is what I did with this one.  Here is a list of devices Dexter Gordon uses in the first three choruses of his solo on "Stanley The Steamer" from his 1969 recording Tower Of Power.  Notice how clear he plays ideas!

1. Melodic Sequence
2. Descending Arpeggio
3. Blues Scale
4. Triadic Material
5. Digital Pattern 123

His solo begins at the 0:32 mark:

Happy practicing! Happy listening!


Teaching Jazz In The Forest 

So I have been deep in the Manistee National Forest teaching Jazz to high school students the past couple of weeks. If you are not from Michigan, look at your hand with your thumb to the right...it's located beneath your pinky :)

Classes ran from 8am-5pm with a decent break in there for lunch (and a nap!).  We played recordings for them, rehearsed their ensembles, taught improv techniques, scales, arpeggios, jazz vocabulary, transcribing, taught instrument techniques like tone production and finger dexterity, and had many small but great conversations with each other.  I think if these kids become the leaders of tomorrow, we will be in good shape!  These students are so thoughtful, considerate, intelligent, respectful and concerned.  Now if they would only memorize their scales!!! JK!

I also enjoyed hanging with the Jazz Faculty, an incredible collection of players/educators.  These cats have a lot to say on their instruments and are deep, funny and caring individuals.  It's difficult to be away from home that long, but these friends make it possible.  We put together a faculty recital and collaborated with the Art Dept. which was centered around the theme of "fire."  We performed a continuous set of music, all original arrangements and two original compositions while four artists improvisation-ally painted to our music.  It was a thrill to perform this way!  What I like most about this "happening" is that you have the ability to ponder the artwork that captured the abstract form of music that dissipates as soon as its created.

We did record the music from that night and will be aired on Blue Lake Public Radio July 16 2016.  It will be available on demand after that from the radio website.

So my take-away from the past two weeks...be the best-version of yourself and share it with others! That's it!



Sonny Red 

Sonny Red is an often forgotten soul in the pantheon of hard bop, but a real favorite of mine.  His "Detroit sound," that buoyancy in his tone and beautiful melodic lines with a real feel for the blues..gets me every time! You can take any 2 beats out of this solo and they would stand on their own.  Nothing earth shattering here, a few scale patterns, arpeggios and Bird licks, but how Sonny put it together...pure joy!


Doctor Professor 

Dr. Prof Leonard King is a storied jazz drummer, vocalist, composer and teacher from Detroit.  He has performed with the James Carter Organ Trio, Roy Brooks' Aboriginal Drum Choir, The Soul Messengers, a host of Motown recording artists, and is the leader of the Dr. Prof. Leonard King Orchestra as well his own original small group Oopapada.  Many folks have wondered about his nickname "Doctor Professor."  All you need to do is chat with him on a set break to find out why; he knows more about American music history and Detroit history than almost any man alive.

He is most passionate for his original music and I am fortunate enough to get to play it with him on a regular basis.  His group Oopapada was created as an organ trio featuring Chris Codish (organ) and Bob Tye (guitar).  Many years later, he has re-created the group as a quartet, replacing guitar with two horns...that's where I come in!  Rounding the group out is Jimmy Smith on trumpet.  We rehearse weekly in Leonard's basement where one can catch a glimpse of his library...hundreds of books on music, history, banking, and a plethora of other niche topics.  His music encapsulates his knowledge and discovery of human truths, sometimes enigmatically, but always grooving! I know much of our time 'rehearsing' is talking and sharing ideas, and usually him defining words in his titles...Leonard is very creative when it comes to the English language, he likes to invent new words and repurpose old ones to describe situations and personality traits.  Check out some of these song titles: Crept Dema Wrongma, Vapor Lock Bop, Post '80s Methusela Blues, and Imperative Unit Rising.  

Leonard recently gave an interview for Mike McGonigal at Metrotimes, here it is:


The Dr. Prof. Leonard King Orchestra recently released an album, "This Time and Again Forward." Be sure to check it out! 


Every Day Something New 

I have quite a week lined up! Each day is something new and different and although it presents a challenge, I am really looking forward to each gig. I totally love my life in music!!!

Wednesday at Black Lotus we will be playing there music of Lee Morgan.  Lee almost single-handed defined the Blue Note sound of the 1960s, fusing be bop with latin rhythm & blues, the boogaloo and gospel music. This will be a blast! Joining me is Jimmy Smith (trumpet), Scott Gwinnell (piano), Jeff Pedraz (bass) and Bill Higgins (drums).

Thursday at O'Malley's we have a slamming group put together to play some Brecker Brothers and Jazz Crusaders things.  It will be Jimmy Smith (trumpet), Dale Grisa (keys), John Gallo (guitar), Takashi Iio (bass) and Steve Nistor (drums).  Hearing John Gallo play the solo on Song For Barry will be worth your entire evening.

Friday back at the Black Lotus I will be playing with Leonard King's OOPAPADA.  Dr. Prof. King write all the music and lyrics for this group and showcases his wry wit and insight into politics, society truisms and his perspective on life.  I love playing with Leonard every chance I get, not only for his knowledge of music and things, but his creative and original voice on the drums.

Saturday I will be with Ben Sharkey and the Woodward Horns.  We will be playing some of Ben's originals as well as a cart-full of classic standards.  I have been working on arranging a tune as have the other cats and am really looking forward to hearing them come to life with this swinging band.

OK, that's enough blowing for me, I have to go practice.



All About Jazz Review of "Ever Up & Onward" 

Wow! I am really grateful for the attention that my latest recording has received.  Jimmy Smith and I put a lot of blood, sweat and tears into this project and it feels good knowing that people are checking it out and getting something positive from it.  We have so much love for the jazz musicians of Detroit, both past and present, and it is our sincere hope that we do them justice!

Here is Mark Sullivan's full review:

Detroit was once a vital jazz center, contributing some of the major hard bop artists of the 1960s: Hank, Thad, and Elvin Jones, Tommy Flanagan, Barry Harris, Paul Chambers, Kenny Burrell, and Ron Carter, just to name a few. The James Hughes & Jimmy Smith Quintet honors that tradition by playing mostly original hard bop with real flair. In addition to being strong soloists, saxophonist James Hughes and trumpeter Jimmy Smith contribute all of the compositions and arrangements.  

Smith says that the opener "Audio Culture" was inspired by trumpeter Woody Shaw. It's also reminiscent of Herbie Hancock's "Maiden Voyage" in its insistent modal vamp, and introduces the band in a bright, upbeat fashion, with pianist Phil Kelly turning in an ebullient solo. Smith's "East Detroit" has a similar modal sound, driven by an ostinato figure doubled by bass and piano, inspired by the group's drummer Nate Winn . Hughes contributes "Dots," another upbeat song he describes as "like a sugar rush." "Zebras, Penguins and Bunny Rabbits" (the favorite animals of Hughes' three nieces) has a catchy tune that could make a good TV show theme.  

The first cover tune in the set is also the closest thing to a ballad, a creative arrangement of the traditional "There Is A Balm In Gilead," which features a fine solo by bassist Takashi Iio. The album closes with two standards. "I'll Remember April" is a jam session favorite, given a fresh latin arrangement to keep things from being too predictable. "I'll Close My Eyes" is played straight, a swinging, romantic ending to the program. This is consistently up music—in the sense of being mostly up-tempo, as well as energetic and optimistic. Ever Up & Onward is an especially apt title. A distinctly modern take on hard bop, Detroit style.  

Track Listing: Audio Culture; Dots; Luca's Interlude; East Detroit; There Is A Balm In Gilead; Drum Intro; Viridian; Zebras, Penguins and Bunny Rabbits; Keepin' It Real; Transgender Fenderbender; I'll Remember April; I'll Close My Eyes. 

Personnel: James Hughes: saxophone; Jimmy Smith: trumpet; Phil Kelly: piano; Takashi Iio: bass; Nate Winn: drums. 

Year Released: 2015 | Record Label: Self Produced | Style: Modern Jazz

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Thanks folks!


AXS Reviews "Ever Up & Onward" 

I was totally blown away by the review The HSQ got by online music website AXS.  Music critic Carol Banks Weber not only gave our album a favorable review, she really dug into our compositions and understood where Jimmy and I are coming from, musically and personally. I am not shy about severe criticism either, brutal honesty is very helpful in a musician's pursuit, but this was pretty heart-warming.  It's nice to know that our music can resonate with folks, that is after all what we have dedicated our artistic lives to!  

Here is the review in it's entirety:

Oftentimes, the reviews and liner notes of other people tend to interfere with a listener’s singular enjoyment of a record on its own. The listener needs to hear for himself without an outside force telling him what to feel and how to think. In the case of the Hughes-Smith Quintet’s latest jazz album from Detroit, a backstage glimpse of what’s going on with the 12 tunes is an absolute requirement to completely enjoying the modern sounds up close. 

In the liner notes for the James Hughes-Jimmy Smith Quintet’s sophomore album, Ever Up & Onward, the song descriptions glimpse the fun the musicians had putting the songs together, as well as the poignant moments that inspired some of them. For the fun, upbeat, bluesy throwback “Dots,” Hughes described writing it tantamount to capturing the feeling of a “sugar rush, bursts of color and playful energy. I think we all need that from time to time. When I wrote this, it reminded me of the sound and feeling of laughter when musicians get together.” 

When the listener has a chance to compare what Hughes described and what is played, the accuracy is uncanny, and a testament to what this Quintet can do. 

The Hughes-Smith Quintet is saxophonist James Hughes and trumpeter Jimmy Smith, with a trio of fine musicians holding up the rhythm section. The Detroit jazz sound of the 1950s-‘60s becomes a whole other experience in the post-millennium in the care of Hughes, Smith, pianist Phil Kelly, drummer Nate Winn, and bassist Takashi Iio. 

Ever Up & Onward, released on March 15, 2016 independently, is the Quintet’s second album and a modern, hard bop take on the jazz unique to Detroit. Detroit jazz is a little edgy, very soulful, with plenty of room to groove between both, and all under the cover of a smooth, skillful, sophisticated set of straight-ahead enthusiasts who really comprehend the mood and the chops involved. 

The chops and the feel involved in pulling off eight original tracks — written by Hughes or Smith, three favorite standards, and a phenomenal drum intro from Winn set this Quintet apart. 

All Music’s Thom Jurek dug the Detroit vibe from the onset. “The Motown sensibility at the heart of ‘East Detroit’ — established by drummer Nate Winn’s eternal groove and bassist Takashi Iio’s solid walk — is given wings by Smith’s song-like trumpet solo,” Jurek wrote, referencing just one of several outstanding cuts. “…Since the release of From Here on Out in 2013, JSJHQ have earned more bandstand experience, reflecting a growing confidence in their compositions. As a result, Ever Up & Onward more than lives up to its title.” 

With a band as tight as this one, the temptation is to do nothing but show off. But the Quintet is confident enough in its chops to go with the flow of each song, whether it swings hard or soft. Nothing is too soft as to be boring. You can tell these musicians understand straight-ahead jazz at the core; there must always be strong, pivotal movement, and with this album, there most certainly is. 

Actually, with a straight-ahead band as tight and talented as this one, the outstanding pieces tend not necessarily to be the flash cards but the subdued, underrated gems, like the cover of the African-American spiritual, “There Is A Balm In Gilead.” 

These guys infuse so much class into the already soulful 1800s ballad, just a little of this, just a little of that, a piano sprinkled like fairy dust in between the lush horn lullaby turned up several notches, a hush of a barely simmering fire in the drums and bass. There’s plenty of room to mess it up, or muddy it up with unnecessary drama — unless you’re Hughes, who, like many jazz musicians, grew up in the church. 

He arranged this piece as something special, dear to his heart. Again, those enlightening liner notes. “I grew up in the church, always sang in the choirs and played piano for them, even did a 10-year stint as choir director. This has long been one of my favorite spirituals. It deals with our experiences, pains and hardships, to which we often shake our head and ask, ‘Is there no remedy?’” 

In Hughes’ arrangement and the Quintet’s playback, there is. They play this spiritual with heart and hope, a warm tone to the measures, and an underlying grace in the lift of the keys, the flow-over of the bottom notes… They play this spiritual with the grace that’s perhaps missing in a lot of real fire and brimstone churches with pastors who tend to emphasize hell over heaven. 

Smith is especially outstanding in his trumpet solo, which flickers over the lamplight of the rhythm section rolling steady under Winn’s command. 

For jazz bands, it’s easy to play up chops in the never-ending battle for one-upmanship. Far too often, jazz musicians forget feeling in their haste to prove they belong in the technically advanced club. Not these musicians. They come prepared to serve both.

Nate Winn (d), Takashi Iio (b), Jimmy Smith (tpt), James Hughes (sax), Phil kelly (p), Jeff Pedraz (prod.)

Speak No Evil 

This past week has been spent by listening to and practicing the music from Wayne Shorter's quintessential album SPEAK NO EVIL.  Thom Jurek of AllMusic describes it as "the avant-garde meets the hard-bop of the 1950s head on and everybody wins."  The compositions are so deep you could write a text book on them and the playing is equally phenomenal.  Freddie Hubbard, Herbie Hancock, Ron Carter and Elvin Jones.  What a line up!  You can hear a little free jazz, avant-garde, bebop and modal playing in everyone's solos.  Recorded on Christmas Eve in 1964, it truly marks that time in history when all these genres of jazz had developed enough to be mixed together.  

This Wednesday I will be joined with Detroit drummer Bill Higgins who said something that got me thinking.  He noted that Wayne had recorded the albums Night Dreamer, JuJu and Speak No Evil, had transitioned from being Art Blakey's musical director and started with Miles Davis...all within nine months!  I did a little more digging and found out that in that year (1964) in addition to his own three albums, he recorded Search For The New Land (L. Morgan), Indestructible (A. Blakey), The Big Beat (A. Blakey), Pices (A. Blakey), Some Other Stuff (G. Moncur III), The Individualism Of Gil Evans (G. Evans), and Miles In Berlin (M. Davis). 10 fabulous recordings in a year!

What were the other cats up to that year?  Herbie and Ron just joined Miles Davis' new quintet, Herbie Ron and Freddie recorded Empyrean Isles.  Elvin Jones was really busy that year: Judgement (A. Hill), Today and Tomorrow (M. Tyner), In 'n Out (J. Henderson), Night Dreamer (W. Shorter), The Individualism of Gil Evans (G. Evans), Crescent (J. Coltrane), Matador (G. Green), Tony Bennet Jazz (T. Bennet), Bob Brookmeyer and Friends (B. Brookmeyer), Solid (G. Green), Proof Positive (J.J. Johnson), JuJu (W. Shorter), Talkin' About (G. Green), Into Something' (L. Young), Inner Urge (J. Henderson), McCoy Tyner Plays Ellington (M. Tyner), A Love Supreme (J. Coltrane), Guitar Forms (K. Burrell) and finally, whew...Speak No Evil (W. Shorter)!  WOW! What a year for Elvin! Sure makes me feel lazy.

In Wayne's own words about the song selection for Speak No Evil, he says “I was thinking of misty landscapes with wild flowers and strange, dimly-seen shapes — the kind of places where folklore and legends are born.”  

It has been quite an education diving into this recording again after many years.  There is so much to learn from in the compositions, not to mention the improvising styles both individual and collective. Dance Cadaverous has at first glance strange harmonic movement, but what I discovered was a common thread that ties each chord change together.  He hides a shifting B minor triad through them all, sometimes altering one note but always returning to that B minor sound. It really makes the harmony sound veiled. I also really dig the patience Wayne has with using melodic motifs and sequences evidenced in Witch Hunt and Infant Eyes.  In similar fashion, Witch Hunt's melody stays the same while the chord shift underneath...pretty hip!  

All the technical stuff aside, I just want to get to those mystical landscapes.  Hopefully we can do this monumental recording justice.



Heavy Metal Bebop 

This week at Black lotus we put a spotlight on the music of The Brecker Brothers.  Needless to say, I've been preoccupied with this task the past few weeks! It's been a lot to prepare for starting with putting the tunes down on 'paper.'  You won't find much of their stuff in any of the fake books, and the ones that are in there are not too accurate or helpful.  We had to build this set from the bottom up.  And of course once getting the charts written, we had to spend time individually practicing them. We got together once to rehearse them and man is it sounding good!!! I can't wait to perform them!

A few things I have picked up by listening a bunch and shedding their stuff: They make everything sound so easy and relaxed when in actuality, it's pretty intricate.  The technical demands are quite high and is pushing us all to our limits.  It's a lot of fun reaching further and I am sure that the cats in the band have all grown musically because of it.

Randy Brecker did most of the writing for the group...I didn't realize that until digging deeper into their repertoire. And man can he write s tune!  Beauty, sophistication and grit.  And of course he's just a beast on the trumpet taking crazy good solos and playing essentially lead trumpet parts with ease. Such a great musician!

I also have been checking out multiple performances of single tunes at different times during their career.  They constantly change up the forms and solo spaces where every performance is truly different than the next.  The smallest nuance is incorporated and flawlessly executed...what a tight band!

Well thats all for now folks! I am thoroughly inspired by these two titans of music and I hope you are too! And I hope we do their tunes justice!!!!

Barry Harris 

This week at our Black Lotus Jam, we present a set of music featuring the compositions of pianist Barry Harris.  Mr. Harris is one of jazz's most prolific educators having mentored thousands of students and hosting weekly workshops for decades.  He has always been a Detroit icon, revered by the Detroit jazz community because when so many Detroit musicians were headed to New York, Mr. Harris stayed here to cultivate the scene.  Even after finally transitioning to New York, Detroiters still consider him their own.

His playing style is well documented - the tremendous influence Bud Powell and Charlie Parker had on him.  His tunes are less recognized however, and that is what we will be looking at this week.  His compositions are rooted in the bebop tradition, full of ii-V-I progressions that often snake through by half or whole steps, and lots of melodic sequences.  But there is a churning rhythmic sense behind all of them that reveal his "Detroit-ness." Each melodic statement is almost always answered with a rhythmic statement and each melody has a lilt to it, even the straight-eighth tunes.  All of his tunes, and there are a lot of them, are terrific solo vehicles, too.  Logical and easy chord changes, but still very original and singular, make them a blast to play over.

On a personal note, I got to play the Detroit Jazz Festival with Mr. Harris two years ago with the festival's jazz orchestra.  In rehearsal, he was so casual, genuine and warm. He didn't say much, but he was very present in the moment.  At one point in the rehearsal, he stopped and looked around the band and honed in on me. I could see his wheels turning, and then he opened his eyes wide and asked, "would like to solo on this one?"  Of course I jumped at the opportunity! I think he was looking for the youngest guy in the band. Always the teacher, mentor, helper.
I have had such a good time listening, transcribing and practicing these tunes the past few weeks! Here is our set list for Wednesday: Barengo, Like This, High Step, Luminescence, Even Steven, and of course, Nascimento.  We love you Barry Harris!


Apps for Practicing 

Nothing is better than time spent with your instrument practicing the things that need working out.  Technical facility is something that always needs developing, refining and refreshing...no matter the age, stage or phase of life we are in.  Here are some of the apps I use on a regular basis and recommend to my students:

1. ProMetronome.  We all have a metronome, but this one can be with you at all times and doesn't need batteries...besides it's free!

2. n-TrackTuner.  An accurate tuner that gets the job done, also free!

3. iRealPro.  It's an app that plays the chord changes to over 1,000 tunes with bass, piano and drum sounds.  Great for working on improvising and memorizing tunes as well as "cheat sheets" for gigs.  It can change keys, tempi and number of repeats.  It can even transpose after each chorus if you want to take Cherokee through 12 keys or whatever.  It costs a little $, but is totally worth every penny!

4.  UnReal Book.  I use this to upload all my PDFs of charts I have written.  Searching for charts is quick and you can even make set lists.  I have over 500 in mine...so nice not to have to carry a huge binder full of charts spilling out everywhere.

In addition to these apps, I use the Stopwatch function on my iPhone constantly to monitor my practice time as well as the Notes app to journal my practicing.  I also use the Voice Memos function to record snippets of an exercise or tune for later review and reflection.

Well, I hope this helps and inspires you to hit the woodshed!


Spending Some Time With Cannonball Adderley Records  Podcast

Last week at our weekly jazz gig at Black Lotus Brewery, we featured the music of the Adderley Bros.  So I was shedding Cannonball solos all week, something I did a whole lot of when I was much younger.  Cannonball was one of the earliest and most significant influences on my approach to jazz.  But, it's been a while since I was digging deep into his bag and revisiting him was so insightful and productive.  I picked up a few gems through transcribing his solo on "Jeanine" off the Paris 1960 record.

It is well documented, but his articulation is so inventive!  He does the odd groupings of slurred to tongued, like a 3 + 2 + 2, etc. which when combined with the shape of his lines is so fresh and popping.  He also will ease up on the syncopation by tonging every eighth note for a measure...works real well for a release of rhythmic tension.  

Besides his unique articulation schemes, I was really getting into his "inside" vocabulary.  A couple things in particular I heard him doing a bunch; one was his be-bop navigation through dominant II7 - V7 turnarounds; second was hip little minor licks taken up a minor third.  I know both of these ideas are quite common, but the way Cannonball plays them pops out to my ear.  How often does that happen to us as students and as teachers of music?  We can hear the same message over and over again, but for some reason it doesn't resonate until one person come along and says the same thing a little differently and KAZAAM the lightbulb comes on!

I try to record some parts of my practicing each day, here is a snippet of me implementing some of Cannonball's ideas on the tune "It Could Happen To You."

Friday January 22, 2015 "A Full Week of Jazz!" 

I am getting ready for a super busy week of jazz gigs. It is going to be an intense work schedule, but it's what I live for!!!
Here are my thoughts about the different musics, artists, and venues:

Bobby Murray's Tribute to Etta James is a collective of serious blues musicians.  Etta's music is so greasy, soulful and sassy. She didn't side-step anything, but got straight to the point.  If all you know of her work is "At Last," you might be surprised to learn how diverse her tastes were.  There is jazz, soul, rock and gut busting blues in there.  The one common thread is that her music was 100% human emotion.  The three singers that will be featured (Joe Jolley, Lenny Watkins, Tosha Owens) all capture that spirit.  Ms. Tosha Owens singing "I'd Rather Go Blind" is a life-changing event! She sings with authority, personality, desperation, power and grace.  And don't forget the leader, Bobby Murray.  Many of us know well his mastery of the blues language, but what makes him so special to me is his spirit.  He is ALWAYS in a good mood!  Smiling, loving life and playing his butt off. To top it off I am in the horn section with some of my best friends, THE WOODWARD HORNS (Jimmy Smith, Bobhy Streng and Matt Martinez).

On Monday I play with the Paul Keller Orchestra in Ann Arbor at Zal Gaz Grotto.  The PKO has been playing every Monday night for over 20 years! The band's birthday is coming up soon and is a testament to Paul's dedication to music. I love playing each week with PKO because it keeps my skills honed.  I get a chance to sight-read a bunch of charts (work on my instant conception!), keep my clarinet, flute, alto and tenor saxes crisp, work on ensemble playing, sharpen my listening skills and stay connected to many great friends in this crazy business.

The Black Lotus Brewery in Clawson is developing into an oasis for professional musicians. They have a new music room adjacent to the brewery with a wonderful stage and PA. I will be there on Sunday with The Scott Gwinnell Jazz Orchestra.  I have been with Scott from the beginning when we were playing at the Circa Lounge. Scott has his own unique voice through his compositions and arrangements that shine is this stellar group. I will also be there Wednesday with my own group The Hughes/Smith Quintet playing the music of Art Blakey & The Jazz Messengers. We will have Keith Kaminski with us...I am looking forward to that because I absolutely love sharing the stage with other Saxophonists and Keith is the man!

Thursday I will be with my quintet again, but this time at O'Malley's in Livonia.  This club was just remodeled with an emphasis on live music. They too have a great stage with an amazing sound system built in.  They have a very supportive built-in crowd that loves live music and we are honored to playing our original music there.  We have a special guest with us that night, new-comer jazz vocalist, Liz Smith.

Friday the Hughes/Smith Quintet hits again at Motor City Wine. I can't say enough about the cats in the band. Joining us is Pete Siers on drums.  Pete is a world of musical knowledge and brings his expertise to everything he does.  Last time Pete played with us, he elevated the bandstand until we were all floating! Mix in Takashi's groove on bass and Phil Kelly on piano, be-bop master and an amazing accompanist who always knows just what to play, it's going to be an awesome night!

Well, time for me to go...I have some practicing to do!

Monday January 4, 2015 "Two Incredible Rhythm Sections" 

This week I have the honor of playing with some of the best rhythm sections in Detroit.  

Wednesday I will be with Scott Gwinnell (piano), Jeff Pedraz (bass) and Steve Nistor (drums).  We will be at Black Lotus playing the music of Dexter Gordon.  Dexter has had such a profound influence on me as a musician.  He truly sings through his horn. When he plays a phrase it sounds like it's the most important thing he has ever played.  His ideas are so clear and concrete and he always plays with a big robust tone. He is sometimes romantic, sometimes playful and always swinging!

Saturday I will be at Cliff Bells with the Latin Jazz group Agaunco that features the rhythm section of Rick Roe (piano), Pat Prouty (bass), Pepe Espinosa (timbales) and Alberto Nacif (conga).  Alberto is the band leader and is celebrating his second recording INVISIBLE.  It's all original music and is so melodic, tight and captivating.  I love playing with these guys, it's going to be fantastic!

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James Hughes-Jimmy Smith Lotus Jam!

Black Lotus, 1 E. 14 Mile Rd, Clawson, MI

Jimmy Smith and I host this weekly jam session where we feature a different theme and rhythm section each week.

James Hughes-Jimmy Smith Lotus Jam!

Black Lotus, 1 E. 14 Mile Rd, Clawson, MI

Jimmy Smith and I host this weekly jam session where we feature a different theme and rhythm section each week.