CD Reviews

MusicWeb International

Webmaster: Len Mullenger

[ Jazz index ] [Nostalgia index]  [ Classical MusicWeb ] [ Gerard Hoffnung ]

Reviewers: Tony Augarde [Editor], Steve Arloff, Nick Barnard, Pierre Giroux, Don Mather, Glyn Pursglove, George Stacy, Sam Webster, Jonathan Woolf

AmazonUK   AmazonUS


The Story So Far




1. The Story So Far
2. My Favourite Things
3. Honeysuckle Rose
4. Get Out of Town
5. Take Me Away
6. Corcovado/If You Never Come to Me
7. Busy Bee
8. Close to You
9. It's Alright with Me
10. Oh, Lady be Good
11. Little Wing
12. Spain

Sarah Ellen Hughes - Vocals/backing vocals
Rick Simpson - Piano
Tom Farmer - Bass
Darren Altman - Drums
Chris Allard - Guitar (tracks 5, 6, 9, 11)
Dave O'Higgins - Saxes (tracks 1, 5, 9)
Track 12 performed by Sector 7


Young female jazz singers are not exactly a rare breed these days so it's inevitable that not all of them will become the Norma Winstones and Tina Mays of tomorrow. It helps to stand out from the crowd. Sarah Ellen Hughes was lead singer with NYJO and has already won high praise for her live performances, including winning an international jazz singing competition in Lithuania. She also sings with the vocal group, Sector 7, and, amazingly in these straitened times, occasionally leads an all-star big band. Clearly, she is going places.

I was looking forward to hearing this, her second CD, but must confess to a slight disappointment in regard to her choice of repertoire. Honeysuckle Rose, My Favourite Things and It's Alright with Me have all graced the jazz repertoire for many years but it is extremely difficult to make such very familiar songs sound fresh. Hughes has a pleasant, versatile soprano voice and is well-supported by what I assume is her regular trio with the addition on some tracks of two fine musicians in Chris Allard and Dave O'Higgins. But it's on the three original songs - The Story So Far, Take Me Away and Busy Bee - that my interest perked up.

The title track, co-written by Hughes and O'Higgins, gets the CD off to an excellent start. Hughes scats and blends well with pianist Simpson before O'Higgins comes in with a forthright solo. Take Me Away is an emotional ballad in which Hughes deploys her own voice as a multi-tracked accompaniment along with O'Higgins's lithe soprano sax. There is more scat on Busy Bee in which Hughes shows her dexterity in coping with tongue-twisting lyrics.

Hughes sings the verse on Cole Porter's Get Out of Town, an intelligent decision as it then makes sense of the drama conveyed by the song. She rides comfortably over the rhythm section on this track, demonstrating that she can use her voice effectively as an improvising musical instrument. The jazz samba style suits her well, so the choice of the two Jobim songs that segue cleverly from the jaunty to the ethereal and back again is a wise one. Burt Bacharach's pop song Close to You becomes a soulful jazz ballad with a sonorous bass solo by Farmer. Hendrix's Little Wing is as much a vehicle for Allard who contributes some powerful guitar licks alongside Simpson's bluesy piano. Chick Corea's Spain, based on the Rodrigo Guitar Concerto, makes an intriguing addendum with its echoes of the Manhattan Transfer.

Despite my reservations about well-worn tunes in the choice of repertoire, this CD contains much to commend. The tracks that I have highlighted show that Sarah Ellen Hughes is a very promising jazz singer who is definitely on the way up. 

George Stacy

Gerard Hoffnung CDs

Advertising on

Donate and get a free CD

New Releases

Naxos Classical


Musicweb sells the following labels
Acte Préalable
Cameo Classics
Northern Flowers
Toccata Classics

Follow us on Twitter

Subscribe to our free weekly review listing

Sample: See what you will get

Return to Index

You can purchase CDs, tickets and musician's accessories and Save around 22% with these retailers: