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

I recently released my fourth recording with co-leader Jimmy Smith titled THE GATES, but this time we teamed up with NYC Trombonist John Yao.

 JazzTimes calls THE GATES  "...a thing of beauty...a well-wrought affair."

Dan Bilawsky - July 27, 2019

and All About Jazz writes:

"The entire project demonstrates the continuing power of hard bop when played with energy and focus. These players make it sound fresh and new."

Mark Sullivan - August 2, 2019

You can purchase it HERE!

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


The "James & Jimmy" Jam is back! After a summer long hiatus, we have regrouped and are ready to come out swinging!

It was sad to see our Wednesday home at The Black Lotus fold up, but it provided us with a much needed mental break. We are very excited to be starting a new monthly series at Cliff Bells doing the same thing we did the past three and a half years. We will feature a different rhythm section each month and play the music of a particular composer or recording and then open things up for a jam session. This will happen the first Wednesday of each month from 8pm-12am.

This month at Cliff Bells we will be presenting the Joe Henderson recording LIVE AT THE LIGHTHOUSE (1970). I thought I would take a little time here to blog my thoughts about this underground album beloved by so many musicians.

The Lighthouse Cafe located in Hermosa Beach, CA has long been a favorite spot for jazz musicians to play when out on the west coast. They first started featuring jazz there in 1949 and for the most part have had jazz there ever since. So many great recordings have come from that room, and on each one, you can hear relaxed, uninhibited and inspired playing proving that is a special venue. Players like Lee Morgan, Jazz Crusaders, Elvin Jones, Cannoball Adderly, and Art Blakey have all recorded there. But our attention is on Joe Henderson's dynamic quintet that recorded there on Sep 24 1970.

The lineup is one not heard to often together and provided crazy energy that sizzles from the first downbeat. Woody Shaw (tpt), George Cables (elec pno), Ron McClure (b) and Lenny White (d) all bring the heat. The tracks are made up of Joe Henderson originals and a couple standards. What's really refreshing is to hear Joe's tunes recorded years after him playing them nightly as opposed to the Blue Note recordings where they were very new to him and the band still. These versions of Blue Bossa, Recorda Me, Isotope, Shade of Jade and Mode For Joe sound more open and the band stretches out on them. Joe's technique is on full display burning through Isotope like it's a riff tune or something. I think one reason so many jazz musicians like this album is because we get to hear Joe and Woody address these tunes like how we encounter them today, live and raw, opened up with tons of solo space. We get to hear Joe and Woody throw down some wild and woolly language on Mode For Joe and is pretty obvious there is some friendly fire being tossed around. I have heard that Woody was not thrilled with his playing on this record, probably due to the fact that Joe is untouchable here, nevertheless, Woody sounds amazing and is going for it wall to wall.

The rhythm section deserves recognition, too! Ron McClure anchors the section down, yet still plays super melodic bass lines and pops with Lenny White left and right. Lenny is going full tilt on this recording too, full of fire, but still sensitive and always conversing with the soloist. George Cables is on Fender Rhodes the whole time, which can be overbearing and redundant, but in his hands it never gets there. George doesn't play it like a piano, he honors the sound of the instrument and colors beautifully all the bombastic playing going on around him. His accompaniment on 'Round Midnight is most notable...ears wide open, following Joe wherever he goes, and reharmonizing without losing the integrity of the original tune. He is able to lighten up the dark spots and cast shade on the bright corners of the tune...pure genius!

If you can't tell, I LOVE THIS ALBUM! Personally, it has had a huge impact on my playing. When I first heard Joe's unabashed, aggressive, rhythmic and sly melodic playing on this record, it was like someone opened a door up for me and said, "come in...you can do this, too!" It was a green light in my playing life and I've been going ever since. I hope you have a moment to check this phenomenal recording out! It's well worth the time :)

yours in music,



Come check us out! The first Wednesday of each month at CLIFF BELLS in Detroit. 8pm-12am

October  - Joe Henderson LIVE AT THE LIGHTHOUSE

November - music of HERBIE HANCOCK

December - music of CURTIS FULLER

New Recording! 

"The Gates" is out!

My new sextet record is finally out. I collaborated with Jimmy Smith (trumpet, DET) and John Yao (trombone, NYC).

Backing us up is a swinging rhythm section: Corey Kendrick (piano), Jeff Pedraz (bass), and Nick Collins (drums).

We recorded it in 2018 when it was absolutely frigid here in Detroit at Longview Studios under the expert engineering eye of Mark Byerly. Leslie Kelly did the artwork and it was mastered by Chicago sound guru Anthony Gravino.

Here's a little background on the album...

Jimmy and I made a trip out to NY, connected with John Yao who Jimmy met back in their college days at Queens College, and rented a rehearsal space to read through some tunes and hang. The three of us had a sound right away...not just blending well, but a unique sound all unto it's own. That was it.  We knew we had to record together at some point in the future.

Over the next few months we planned out a session and each started writing a few tunes. We never talked about exactly what each of us was working on, but had the memory of what we sounded like together.

The first time hearing all of our tunes was at the first read-through many months later. It was crazy how well each tune went with another. It was like a nine-piece suite. The vibe was so consistent from one to the next we knew we would have a congruent album.

It has been a pretty funny (funny, weird, amazing) thing to witness come together the past year and I am quite proud of the work we did on it. Everything was recorded in just two short days. Proof of the fact that each one of these cats is a true professional.

We shopped the album around and were happy to have found Shifting Paradigm Records and are very pleased to be a part of their family.

I hope you have time to give us a listen and hear our stories told through our tunes.

You can purchase our music here: https://shiftingparadigmrecords.bandcamp.com/album/the-gates



Thanks for being you,


There Goes Another Year 

Time seems to run downhill after September and 2018 is coming to a close. We have one more month to complete....er, close the gap....ok, maybe start some of those New Year's resolutions from eleven months ago.  Let me tell how how I've fared with my musical goals for 2018.

Since my college days, I have been trying to create a practice routine that sticks in my schedule, so for the past 20 years I've been tinkering with it. It's an ongoing struggle, but I have learned that specific yearly goals help keep me focused on a somewhat regular regimen. This year was successful in practicing something nearly every day.. a feat I am quite proud of! It is so easy to not do it when I'm busy, sick, or tired...but I didn't cave in and could always do at least 10 minutes of something.

Let's talk about those 'somethings' of practicing.

This year I wanted to expand my comfort level with improvising in 7/4. It was a very fun and gratifying goal because it forced me to focus my listening, transcribe new things and be able to lean into soloing on 7/4 tunes instead of tip-toeing around them. I still have far to go, but at least that proverbial bus is pointed in the right direction!

I also wanted to work on the Jean-Marie Londeix Nouvelles Etudes...which I have barely touched. It's been an epic fail! I guess it's a good thing there are a few more weeks left in 2018 to try and put a dent in these. It feels that other practice goals take precedent over this one because these etudes don't appear to have a direct influence on my gigs. Not a good mindset, I know.

Another failure this year has been my goal of transcribing several solo breaks. I love listening to a great solo break...when pulled off with skill, they are condensed bits of improvised magic, full of everything I want in my playing; cozy time feel, good language, clear ideas, and usually a bit of humor.  I haven't transcribed one yet! This goal definitely got swept under the rug.

It's not all bad, though. I wanted to improve my time-feel on tempi between 200-240 bpm as well as smooth out major and harmonic minor scales. I worked on this consistently and was a part of my daily practicing all year long. I am pretty happy about that!

I wanted to get a couple Joel Frahm solo transcriptions...I did! Check that off the list!

The last musical goal of note I laid out for myself last January was to acquire more diminished patterns for improvising, to which I have done so. I worked on about six of them early in the year, although only two or three have found their way into my soloing. It's probably time to revisit those.

It's a crazy busy month coming up (they all are though, right?)...fingers crossed I can get to some of these unfinished goals.

How are your resolutions coming along?

2018 Detroit Jazz Festival 

The HSQ is super excited to be playing a set at the Detroit Jazz Festival! Everyone in the quintet has had a very busy year and involved in many diverse endeavors that we don't get to play together as much as we would like. But we are coming together for this one! We had a fantastic rehearsal last night and are ready to take the stage. Most of our rehearsing is actually conversing and catching up, but we took care of all the necessary spots, lol! We have a very ambitious set planned, we would love to see you out there. Here is a link to the festival website:DETROIT JAZZ FESTIVAL

We play on Saturday September 1, 3:30-4:45pm at the Pyramid Stage and will be signing CDs from 5-5:45pm. Come on through! If you have never been, it's a wonderful festival that is completely free!!! If you've been there before, you know how amazing it is to have so much world class talent performing all over from noon to midnight. There is nothing quite like it in the entire world. The vibe downtown Detroit is unlike any other time in the city, too...definitely worth your time :)


Junior Cook Transcription 


Tonight we will be performing music from Blue Mitchell's classic Blue Note album THE THING TO DO at The Black Lotus Brewery in Clawson. So I thought I would share my transcription of tenor Saxophonist Junior Cook's solo on "Step Lightly."  Junior's well conceived lines and logical flow are in full display as is his beautifully large tone and swinging time-feel. Check out how patient he is with different motifs!

His solo begins here at 1:08. Also check out a very young Chick Corea on piano! Amazing solos on this record and fantastic 'comping.

Happy listening! Happy practicing!






The Reviews are In! All About Jazz Reviews MOTION 

The HSQ's latest recording MOTION has been out for a few months and reviews are trickling in. The most recent is from the acclaimed website All About Jazz.

Check them out!


The James Hughes - Jimmy Smith Quintet : MOTION          

By MARK SULLIVAN   allaboutjazz.com    May 17, 2018 


      Detroit's The James Hughes - Jimmy Smith Quintet keeps the hard bop flame burning in this follow up to Ever Up & Onward (Self Produced, 2015). The album shares the same personnel—this has been a working band since 2013, and they sound like it—and the same positive energy. The program is all originals this time. 

Trumpeter Jimmy Smith's "The Runaround" opens the set with a blast of infectious funk (or perhaps it should more appropriately be called soul jazz, the label popular during the hard bop era). Pianist Phil Kelly adds the Fender Rhodes to his keyboard arsenal for this (and "Waxwing"). Bassist Takashi Iio plays a funky solo, and drummer Nate Winn gets a brief feature at the end. A fine showcase for the entire band. 

"Sidamo" is a Latin/Swing tune built around James Hughes' soprano saxophone. His tune "Rue" has a reflective melody played by both horns, over an insistent drum and bass rhythm. It's the closest thing to a ballad in the program. Or perhaps that honor could go to "Elizabeth," with an insistent modal vamp reminiscent of Herbie Hancock's "Maiden Voyage" (like the opener "Audio Culture" on the previous album). "Gig Fries" is essentially an unaccompanied drum solo (bracketed by a head from the whole band): short and sweet. I'll definitely have fries with that! Feels like it belongs with "Chips & Slaw," which closes the set with more soul jazz. 

It's always a pleasure to hear hard bop played with this much style. Great tunes, great playing, great positive energy—what's not to like? I'm already looking forward to the next installment. 

Track Listing: The Runaround; Intersections; Waxwing; Sidamo; Elizabeth; Rue; Wanting More; Promenade with Molly; Gig Fries; Chips & Slaw. 

Personnel: James Hughes: saxophones (alto, soprano, tenor); Jimmy Smith: trumpet, cornet, flugelhorn; Phil Kelly: piano, Fender Rhodes; Takashi Iio: bass; Nate Winn: drums. 

Title: Motion | Year Released: 2018 | Record Label: Self Produced 


Dear All About Jazz Readers, 

Mark Sullivan is a musician/composer (librarian by profession) with a special interest in bebop-based jazz and experimental music. 

If you're familiar with All About Jazz, you know that we've dedicated over two decades to supporting jazz as an art form, and more importantly, the creative musicians who make it. Our enduring commitment has made All About Jazz one of the most culturally important websites of its kind in the world reaching hundreds of thousands of readers every month. 

allaboutjazz.com      -         Reporting on jazz from around the globe since 1995

The HSQ's Third Album MOTION is Here! 

The Hughes/Smith Quintet is very happy to announce that our third SELF-RELEASED album is finally here! We called it "MOTION" because that's where we are at, in a state of constant motion. We built it from the ground up, got it running and are enjoying the ride.

It features the same stellar rhythm section of Phil Kelly (piano & fender rhodes), Takashi Iio (bass), and Nate Winn (drums). Their playing individually and collectively is spectacular, and I am so grateful for their contributions and dedication to this project. We enlisted Mark Byerly to record us again and he knocked it out of the park again! Mark has such a great ear and affinity for our sound, it was very comforting working with him again. This time around we took the mixed tracks to the amazing and storied Mastering Engineer Don Grossing. Don has mastered scads of Grammy Award nominees and winners through his career including Branford Marsalis, Miles Davis and The Rolling Stones. It is such an honor having his finishing touch on our record!

The album is 10 tracks of all originals and mixes several influences like funk, R&B and the avant garde with our foundation: Detroit Be Bop. We have put our hearts and should into this one and am sure you will enjoy listening to it! 

Check us out at Cliff Bells FEBRUARY 2, 9pm for our CD Relaese Party and pick up your hard copy..we'll sign a copy for you :)

Wednesdays in January 

Each and every Wednesday, Jimmy Smith and I put together a set of music featuring a different composer and have a different guest rhythm section in to play with us.We open things up for a jam session after the first set so come on out and enjoy the music and bring your axe and sit in with these stellar musicians!  

Every Wednesday at Black Lotus Brewery 9:30pm-12:30am  

no cover, free parking, full dinner menu  

1 E 14 Mile Rd, Clawson MI  

Jan 3 


James Hughes - sax  Jimmy Smith - trumpet    Matt Martinez - trombone

Kris Kurzawa - guitar  Dale Grisa - piano  Tim Shallebarger - bass  Jason Gittinger - drums  


Jan 10


James Hughes - sax  Jimmy Smith - trumpet    

Duncan McMillan - piano  Sam Harris - bass  Pete Siers - drums  


Jan 17



Jan 24


  Jimmy Smith - trumpet  Bob Mervak - piano


Jan 31


James Hughes - sax  Jimmy Smith - trumpet

Phil Kelly - piano   Takashi Iio - bass   Nate Winn - drums

Pick up our new recording MOTION!!! We will sign it for you :)

Each Wednesday in December 

Each and every Wednesday, Jimmy Smith and I put together a set of music featuring a different composer and have a different guest rhythm section in to play with us.We open things up for a jam session after the first set so come on out and enjoy the music and bring your axe and sit in with these stellar musicians! 

Every Wednesday at Black Lotus Brewery 9:30pm-12:30am 

no cover, free parking, full dinner menu 

1 E 14 Mile Rd, Clawson MI 

Dec 6 


James Hughes - sax  Jimmy Smith - trumpet    Dominic Bierenga - sax

Zen Zadravec - piano  Rocco Popielarski - bass  David Zwolinski - drums 


Dec 13


James Hughes - sax  Jimmy Smith - trumpet   

Zen Zadraveck - piano  Jeff Pedraz - bass  Pete Siers - drums 


Dec 20

WAYNE SHORTER'S album "The Soothsayer"

James Hughes - sax  Jimmy Smith - trumpet  Keith Kaminski - sax  

Phil Kelly - piano  John Barron - bass  Pete Siers - drums


Dec 27

JOHN COLTRANE'S album "Blue Train"

James Hughes - sax  Jimmy Smith - trumpet  Rob Killips - trombone 

Phil Kelly - piano  Takashi Iio - bass  John Hill - drums

Black Lotus Jam in August 

Each and every Wednesday, Jimmy Smith and I put together a set of music featuring a different composer and have a different guest rhythm section in to play with us.We open things up for a jam session after the first set so come on out and enjoy the music and bring your axe and sit in with these stellar musicians!

Every Wednesday at Black Lotus Brewery 9:30pm-12:30am

no cover, free parking, full dinner menu

1 E 14 Mile Rd, Clawson MI

Aug 2


James Hughes - sax  Jimmy Smith - trumpet  

Jacob Schwandt - guitar  Rocco Popielarski - bass  Tom Starr - drums

Aug 9


James Hughes - sax  Jimmy Smith - trumpet  

Corey Kendrick - piano  Jeff Pedraz - bass  Jeff Shoup - drums

Aug 16


James Hughes - sax  Jimmy Smith - trumpet  Terry Kimura - trombone  

Duncan Mcmillan - piano  Ben Rolston - bass

Aug 23

Hosted by Scott Gwinnell

Aug 30


James Hughes - sax  Jimmy Smith - trumpet   Phil Whitfield - keyboards  

Kris Kurzawa - guitar   Takashi Iio - bass  Jesse Kramer - drums

Wednesdays in May at The Black Lotus Brewery 

Trumpeter Jimmy Smith and I host an evening each and every Wednesday where we feature a different rhythm section and jazz composer for the first set.  After that, we open things up for a jazz jam session and encourage all members of the jazz community to participate, from beginners to seasoned professionals, swinging in the spirit of collaboration and community.

Every Wednesday from 9:30pm-12:30am at The Black Lotus Brewery



ft. Jimmy Smith, James Hughes, Corey Kendrick, Stephen Boegehold 




ft. Jimmy Smith, James Hughes, Peyton Miller, Phil Whitfield, Sam Chase Harris, Jesse Kramer 



Music of BRAD FELT 

ft. Steve Wood, Terry Kimura, Duncan McMillan & George Davidson




ft. Jimmy Smith, James Hughes, Leonard King, Matt LoRusso & Rocco Popielarski 




ft. Jimmy Smith, James Hughes, Scott Gwinnell, Jeff Pedraz, & Pete Siers  


pay what you want cover - free parking - jam session after first set 

1 E. 14 Mile Rd, Clawson, MI

Every Wednesday in April at Black Lotus 

Here is a list of the things we are presenting at Black Lotus Brewery this month. I hope to see you there one of these Wednesdays! There is ample free parking in back, pay what you want cover charge, full menu, and award winning crazy-good brews on tap. It's also a very friendly, casual environment :)

Every Wednesday from 9:30pm-12:30am
James Hughes & Jimmy Smith host THE LOTUS JAM


Music of THAD JONES 

ft. Jimmy Smith, James Hughes, Scott Gwinnell, Rocco Popielarski, & Bill Higgins 



ft. Jimmy Smith, James Hughes, Kris Kurzawa, Dale Grisa, Damon Warmack, & Jesse Kramer 



ft. Jimmy Smith, James Hughes, Michael Malis, Joe Fee, & Stephen Boegehold 


A night with the DALE GRISA QUINTET 

ft. Kris Kurzawa, Bobby Streng, Takashi Iio, & Quentin Joseph 

pay what you want cover - free parking - jam session after first set 

1 E. 14 Mile Rd, Clawson, MI

Learn to Read Music! 

This is for all my non-musician friends!  I am eternally grateful for your friendship and support in my musical endeavors.  I am not sure if anyone is that interested in this or not, but I thought I would put it out there with the thought that someone might benefit.  

I know it sometimes seems like music is magic, and it is in a way, but it's more linguistic than mystic.  
I want to help you read music! So here we go!

We name the notes A, B, C, D, E, F, and G.
After G comes A and it cycles through like that forever. ABCDEFGABCDE...

Noteheads are positioned on lines and spaces, 5 lines and 4 spaces to be exact.

We will deal with treble clef first, that is what most instruments read from (Trumpet, Sax, Guitar, Clarinet, Flute, Violin) and it looks kinda like a cross between $ and &.  

The notes that appear on the Spaces, from the bottom up, are F-A-C-E.  Obviously, it spells the word 'face.'

The notes that appear on the lines, from the bottom up, are E-G-B-D-F..."Every Good Boy Deserves Fudge' is a way to remember the order.

Notice that the first line is E, the first space is F, second line is G, second space is A, next line B, next line C, etc.  See the pattern?  When you go line-space-line-space, it spells the "musical' alphabet, on and on and on it goes.

The rules for the bass clef (Trombone, Bass, Cello, Tuba) are very similar to that of the treble, just off set by one line/space.  
The spaces are A-C-E-G.  "All Cars Eat Gas."   The lines are G-B-D-F-A, or "Great Big Dogs Fight Animals."  

You might also notice that when going from line to line it spells out every other letter of the musical alphabet.  A-C-E-G-B-D-F-A....that's how it works from bottom up...if you want to read them top down, it's backwards...F-D-B-G-E-C-A-F...

If you are so inclined, there is a great app that uses flash cards to help you, it keeps score and advances you through levels.  It is called "Notes! Learn To Read Music" and is only $1.99.  Check it out, it will get you reading notes in days.  It even can help you learn where the notes on the piano are...bonus!

I hope you are inspired to learn the written language of music and thank you for your support of live music!



Black Lotus Jams 2016 Retrospective 

Trumpeter Jimmy Smith and I have been hosting the Black Lotus Jam every Wednesday since October of 2015.  We only missed one week due to inclement weather!


Each week we highlight the music of a particular jazz composer or recording with a varying rhythm section.  Here is a list of the composers/albums we have presented:

Larry Young "Unity"
Hank Mobley "Soul Station"
Lee Morgan
Weather Report
Brecker Brothers
Freddie Hubbard
Scott Gwinnell
Wes Montgomery
Billie Holiday
Barry Harris
Fred Wesley
Herbie Hancock
Dexter Gordon
V.S.O.P. Quintet
Art Blakey & The Jazz Messengers
The Adderley Brothers
Kenny Dorham
The Jazz Crusaders
Horace Silver's "Cape Verdean Blues"
Wayne Shorter's "Speak No Evil"
Miles Davis' "Milestones"
Chet Baker
Pat Metheny
Cedar Walton
Andrew Hill
Freddie Hubbard/Woody Shaw
Cannoball Adderley
Blue Mitchel's "The Thing To Do"
Lee Morgan's "Cornbread"
Eddie Russ
Thad Jones
The Hughes/Smith Quintet
Lou Donaldson's "Mr. Shing-a-Ling"
Tom Harrell
Miles Davis' "Bitches Brew"
JJ. Johnson
Mulgrew Miller
Billy Drummond's "Dubai"
Jimmy Heath
James Williams
Kenny Burrell

And here is a list of the phenomenal musicians who have performed with us:

Phil Kelly
Scott Gwinnell
Phil Whitfield
Glenn Tucker
Dan Karlsberg
Mike Malis
Daniel Meinecke
Duncan McMillan
Corey Kendrick
Galen Bundy
Dale Grisa
Bob Mervak
Taylor Pierson
Kris Kurzawa
John Gallo
Matt LoRusso
Larry Barris
Takashi Iio
Jeff Pedraz
Jordan Schug
Miles Brown
Eric Nachtrab
Damon Warmack
Chuck Bartels
James Simonson
Dan Kolton
Kurt Krahnke
Louis Leager
Sam Harris
Rocco Popielarski
Craig Kowalski
Jack McDonald
Nate Winn
Bill Higgins
Pete Siers
Jesse Kramer
Stephen Boegehold
Jason Gittinger
Ron Otis
Leonard King
George Davidson
David Zwolinski
Steve Nistor
Adam James
John Hill
Rick Beamon
Jeff Shoup
Rob Avsharian
Terry Kimura
Rob Killips
Matt Martinez
Chris Smith
Keith Kaminiski
Marcus Elliot
Mark Byerly
Nicole New
Liz Smith

And then there all the many cats that have come to sit in!

I am sure I am missing something or someone because there is a lot to remember! But I am so thankful for the opportunity to learn this music with this incredibly talented pool of Detroit musicians!  Detroit is a gem of a music city, and specifically a JAZZ city...and it is only that way because of the folks that come out and LISTEN and the clubs that support it!  Let's all do our part to keep this going!!!

peace, love & harmony,


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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Bobby Murray's "Love Letters From Detroit"

The Token Lounge, 28949 Joy Rd, Westland, MI

Long-time guitarist for Etta James has assembled a powerhouse cast from Detroit to pay tribute to his late boss, Etta James...featuring Tosha Owens, Raye Williams, Lenny Watkins, Greg Nagy, and THE WOODWARD HORNS!



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Zal Gaz Grotto, 2070 W. Stadium Blvd, Ann Arbor, MI

Phil Ogilve's Rhythm Kings (PORK) plays trad jazz authentically where you can hear the shoes of the dancers sliding on the floor. Tuba, banjo, clarinets, brass and a gong and maybe some wood blocks and horn players singing.