Sarah Ellen Hughes

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Reviews of Sarah Ellen Hughes


28/09/2011 David Cox - Remotegoat Reviews

Cardiff is famous for many things, but hot late September evenings and intimate Jazz venues are not high up on the list.

I have lived in Cardiff for over twenty years and although I have eaten many times at Cafe Jazz, sadly I have never seen any Jazz there. I have seen Jazz elsewhere, Tony Bennett, Cleo Laine and Johnny Dankworth, Carol Kidd and Larry Adler (all at St David's Hall) , though none of those gigs were full.

I was therefore a little apprehensive to see plenty of seats available when Sarah Ellen Hughes started her set. Fortunately, a steady flux of Jazz afficiandos soon filled up the bar which was just as well as what we witnessed deserved to be seen by as many people as possible.

There is nothing like watching a live performance. Songs on YouTube may give you an idea of a voice and the type of music you may hear but it does not reveal the whole story. Jazz is about the rapport between musicians and I have never seen it better exemplified than tonight. Miss Ellen Hughes is in the early stages of a major tour ending in Liverpool in December. Most nights she performs with different musicians and this evening it was a joy to see her leading Dave Collett ( piano), Alan Vaughan ( bass) and Tom Collett ( drums) to produce the sound she wanted. ( I loved her statement to the band at the start of a tricky number " See you at the end").

A singer is generally only as good as the songs they select and tonight we were greeted with a mixture of standards, " Honeysuckle Rose", " Lady Be Good" with some self-penned songs and a few surprises alone the way. The tone of the evening was set with an unexpectedly lively version of Rodger's and Hammerstein's " My Favourite Things" before being followed by the title number of her latest album " The Story So Far" and a moving song about her late mother, " Darning That Dream".

As well as Sarah Ellen Hughes possessing a beautiful voice and great musicianship, she allows the song to tell its story without oversinging. What came as an unexpected bonus was how relaxed and funny she was between the songs, talking naturally to the audience about her life and the songs.

The danger of mixing self-penned new songs with classics is that they don't always survive the comparison with the great song-writers. Tonight, though was the exception as she proved she is also an impressive writer, for me " Working Hard" and " Busy Bee" were the highlights of a two hour set.

My wife and I came along open-minded and left converted fans and with a copy of her latest CD. If you like Jazz and want to see a performer on the way up, catch one of her remaining dates.


02/09/2009 Sebastian Scotney

I was pleased to catch a set from Sarah Ellen Hughes and the Barry Green trio at the Spice of Life last night, followed by the pick n' mix third set involving various singers.

After years of NYJO-graft, Sarah Ellen Hughes emerges as an astonishingly assured singer. She has an engaging personality. She sings with rhythmic drive but also rhythmic freedom, surprising versatility across a range of styles, and a wonderful sense of phrasing. She launched straight into Them There Eyes, she zipped through Taking a Chance on Love with what must be the world's longest ear-rings swaying in rhythm.

In fact there was only one moment she managed to wrong-foot herself- and it wasn't when she was singing. It was when she was explaining , with her good -natured smile, that the Spice of Life has its singers nights on a Wednesday, and that on Thursday it has nights for "er, instrumentalists because we're musicians too." That's a telling remark: Sarah Ellen Hughes is a singers' singer, a musicians' musician, or indeed any combination of the above.

I would very much like to be able to say that the audience took Sarah Ellen Hughes to their hearts last night. But she had a battle on, to win over the attention of a loud birthday group who had taken a table right in front of the stand, and whose main objectives for the evening seemed to be:

(a) to get drunk and to gather the bar's entire stock of large wine glasses onto their table
(b) to drown every instrumental solo.

Musicianship can and will win such people over ..eventually ( I find strangling at birth normally works better). This group's attention was for once completely grabbed by Cole Porter's Get Out of Town, which I also thought was the highlight of the set. The song was not only dispatched in style, Sarah Ellen Hughes also went the whole distance with Barry Green's playful tendency to have a game of catch with the first beat. Is any other young singer capable of playing that
game and winning? I doubt it.
The trio were excellent, watchful smiles in all directions. Jon Blease on drums was strong and vivid, Sam Lasserson was digging deep into his sonorous E string - that's thinking really low!- and Barry Green's subtlety of touch just deserves to be heard. Please.

I'm looking forward to the release of Sarah Ellen Hughes' first album Darning that Dream. It has musicians of the top-flight calibre of Jim Hart and Chris Allard on board. Sarah Ellen Hughes belongs in such company. And I'm looking forward to hearing tonight's group again, but with fewer distractions.

Highlights of the third set were Emma Smith, a superb young blowsy contralto with great stage presence who nailed Lambert Hendriks and Ross's Twisted as if it was a nursey rhyme; Just One of Those Things from Joe Stilgoe; an irresistible low-down and funky Comes Love from Zena James. And the perfect closer for the night , Stevie Wonder's As from Sarah Ellen Hughes and Kwabena Adjepong, a performance ripping with energy and beaming with good humour.


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