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"Luther Hughes and the Cannonball-Coltrane Project"
by Fridtjof, GameVortex Communications AKA Matt Paddock - Dec. 2010

Traditional jazz tends to come up so rarely on the radio, other than public stations, that many young people may not even know how it sounds. Luther Hughes and the Cannonball-Coltrane Project is a celebration of traditional sounds and traditional songs by a group that is deeply rooted in the jazz canon. Used to be, the idea of a jazz canon was limited to historical re-enactment, like you can hear most nights at Preservation Hall in New Orleans. Celebrating this music can be accomplished in many ways, as Luther Hughes and the Cannonball-Coltrane Project demonstrate on this album. Among the dozen songs featured here we find five standards, plus one tune written over chord changes from the standard, "Stars Fell On Alabama." What the group contributes to the other half of the record are compositions that sound very much in the same tradition, creating a nice, cohesive package.

The musicianship of the group's members is extremely high. Two saxophones and a rhythm section resemble the kind of groups that featured 'Trane and Cannonball, or that featured other classic saxophone match-ups like Coltrane and Dolphy or Rollins and Trane. The homage to two classic sax players immediately shines a hard light on the group's horn men, Glenn Cashman on Tenor and Bruce Badad on Alto. Both contribute some nice originals to the record, and handle arrangements for several of the standards. Cashman, in his best moments, comes across more as influenced by a Charlie Rouse than 'Trane or Cannonball, but there are hints of Brecker and Berg in his phrasing and patterns. Badad also plays some unmistakably modern lines, and sounds a bit like Phil Woods when he approaches bop lines. Both players shine brighter on some songs than others, but they and the band show off some tasteful chops throughout. Hughes, the band's namesake, is a bass player and arranger of the lead song on Things Are Getting Better, "Jive Samba." Adderly (Cannonball's brother Nat, in this case) penned a great melody, and Hughes' arrangement makes a perfect introduction to the group. Other highlights include a version of "Softly As In A Morning Sunrise" and some strong originals from Cashman that also show off his arranging chops.

If traditional jazz is your thing, but you're interested in hearing new voices, Luther Hughes and the Cannonball-Coltrane Project very much deserve your time and attention. Listening to the album several times, we can say that it manages to pay tribute to tradition without sounding forced and pedantic. All the players in the band clearly feel free to be themselves, rather than try to copy a bunch of classic literature. The balance of originals with creatively arranged covers of some standards and less obvious fare make this an album that almost any jazz fan will appreciate.