Jack Hues (g, perc), Sam Bailey (p, ky, melodica, perc), Rutledge Turnlund (b), Michael Porter (ld) With Paul Booth (s), Charlie Brown (vln) and Chris Hughes (perc). Rec. 2006
This version of The Quartet has already evaporated in that Porter and Turnlund have moved on, while Paul Booth’s tenor, which adds so much colour and energy to the majority of the tracks, is now making that young man a star in his own right (when he’s not trolling the world with Stevie Winwood). But the creative core, Hues and Bailey remain, and in Illuminated they have created an album that is as surprising as it is satisfying. Considering the credentials, you might have expected a more studio bound, poppy album (Hues with his Wang Chung and film background and producer Chris Hughes mostly associated with 80s new wave pop), But Bailey’s strongly melodic keyboards (Mehldau is an obvious hero) and the space left in the writing for extended but not indulgent soloing keeps the set warm, testing, but never over-wrought.
Hues also has little pretension to be a ‘jazz” guitarist, so he doesn’t overwhelm you with his virtuosity. Instead, there are Dave Gilmour-style moodinesses, and echoes of John Martyn, but again without labouring the point. The easy flowing ‘Waltz For Mel’ is the most obviously jazz flavoured track, with Hues decidedly lissom, but it’s the evocative ‘Fallujah’, allusive and moving, that insinuates most successfully into the listener’s imagination. Although more obviously at the rock end of jazz-rock (whatever that means), this is an album with carefully constructed limits, but it’s certainly not limited in scope. – Andy Robson