Fusing equal shares of jazz improvisation, gospel-tinged soul, and funky blues, I'll Be Home for Christmas from the Fred Hughes Trio contains a breadth of musical styles that embody melodically smooth properties. The 7th release from the trio, the recording features spirited jazz renditions of some favorite holiday tracks accented by elements of Latin swing, boppish motifs, and torchlight nocturnes. Led by pianist Fred Hughes and accompanied by Amy Shook on bass and Frank Russo on drums, the holiday collection presents classic tunes re-thought and reconditioned in a jazz finish.
The bopping rhythm of "Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas" is bolstered by Shook's pumping bass and Hughes' prancing keys which transition to a lulling pace in the title track as the keys sashay softly along the melodic progressions. The spirited pulse of the bass through "Jingle Bells" injects merriment into the frolicking keys and simmers to a slow burn in "The Christmas Song" as the narrative phrasing of the keys guides the tune along its verses.
The funky undercurrent towing "Santa Claus is Coming to Town" is supported by a buoyant bass and drums, and switches to a swinging jazz propulsion in "White Christmas" as the keys entwine surges of improvisations into the melodic motifs, revamping the traditional themes. "Silent Night" is retooled to a torchlight nocturne with gospel overtones, and "Let It Snow" is cradled in a catchy beat as the keys stoke a mirthful mood. The gentle strokes of "Silver Bells" kindles a plush quality in the keys, and the boppish inflection of the instruments through "Winter Wonderland" imbue a swinging jazz vibe.
Tempered for audiences who have a jazz palate, I'll Be Home for Christmas is a warm rendering of holiday favorites. Hughes brings to the recording over four decades of musical experience on the stage. As a conductor, he has directed the Cincinnati Pops Orchestra, the Atlanta and Grand Rapids Symphony Orchestras, Washington and Chicago Lyric Opera Orchestras, the Los Angeles Philharmonic, and was musical director for the Three Mo’ Tenors. Hughes' holiday album with his trio presents familiar sing-along tunes with something extra in the mix.
Fred Hughes – piano, Amy Shook – bass, Frank Russo – drums
Winter Wonderland, O Christmas Tree, Silver Bells, Let It Snow, Silent Night, White Christmas, Santa Claus Is Coming To Town, The Christmas Song, Jingle Bells, I’ll Be Home For Christmas, Have Yourself A Merry Little Christmas