Learn the rules, then break them

June 06, 2002|by KATE COLEMAN

For Fred Hughes, co-director of jazz studies at Shepherd College, jazz is about knowing the musical rules and figuring out how to break them.

Jazz pianist Hughes and bass player Tom Williams will give a demonstration of that process tonight at Roccoco in downtown Hagerstown.

Hughes knows the rules. He wrote "The Jazz Pianist: Left Hand Voicings and Chord Theory." But he has many years of life experience in music - beginning with playing keyboard and tuba at age 8 and playing professionally with his father, a freelance musician in Central Pennsylvania, by the time he was 12.


He played in a community band in the Lancaster, Pa., area in which he grew up, and says he can't stress enough that the community band is an excellent training ground for future musicians.

Hughes was in the military for 13 years - four of them in Seoul, Korea. People were playing jazz in clubs seven nights a week. Hughes also played, making seven recordings by the time he was 21. He was a featured soloist with The Jazz Ambassadors, the U.S. Army's premier touring jazz ensemble, traveling the U.S. and prestigious jazz festivals all over the world.

The Fred Hughes Trio's CD "Out of the Blue" was released in 1996, and "Live" came out in 1998. His latest recording is titled "No Turning Back." About 95 percent of the music the trio plays is original.

Composition is a simple and enjoyable process for Hughes. He sits at the piano to practice - daily. Certain experiences come to mind, and he explores them musically. "Out of that comes a tune," he says.

Jazz has rules and structures, scales and chords. A complex set of mathematical equations underlies the music. The forms can be taught, the forms can be learned, but knowing the rules does not a jazz musician make.

"It's about life. It's about your experience in life," Hughes says.

If you go . . .

Jazz pianist Fred Hughes, with Tom Williams on bass

Tonight, 7:30 to 10


20 W. Washington St.


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