Instead of Light
From a region where new country and hip-hop own the large live music venues, Gwen Hughes is probably the busiest genre-busting singer on the scene. With her bands' undeniable talent (The Rustic Jazz and Retro Jazz Kats), 4 CDs to her credit, and voted Atlanta's favorite jazz/swing singer three times in the past 4 years, Hughes prods and provokes in every performance. On stage, the petite, shimmering chanteuse with the long mane of red curls seems to personify feminine. Then she opens her mouth. Jazz? Pop? Post-modern melodic posturing? Bluegrass? Funkified low-carb song styling? Well, you won't find her in the sale bin with Perry Como, that's for sure. And a girl who won't stick to the melody isn't going to last long at the front of a pop band either. The self-monikered "love child of Muddy Waters and Peggy Lee" is, in the end, best described as a fusion artist - a fusion of blues, rock and jazz...'what we cryptically call 'rustic jazz,' says the singer. Gwen's trademark bare feet are planted squarely in the tradition of cabaret, revealing her early days in musical theatre and straight drama. After paying her dues in cities with a single Holiday Inn and a piano, then losing her regular gig at an Atlanta hotel shortly before the Centennial Olympics, her future as a lounge lizard seemed, well...uncertain. She responded with her first CD, Torch Life, which birthed her wildly successful "Kool Kat Lounge A-Go-Go" show - replete with cigarette girls, jugglers, comedians and a 14-piece band. Next came two more CDs in a single year: the introspective studio recording Lost and Found and a spontaneous, live release, The Misplaced Martini. Both of her original offerings have had Grammy entry, and individual tracks have been recognized by National Public Radio, Just Plain Folks and CDBaby. She's a member of the 'Jazz Outreach' Committee for the Atlanta Chapter of NARAS; a board member of The Atlanta Coalition of the Performing Arts; & a multiple winner of Creative Loafing's BEST JAZZ ARTIST -- a popular ambassador of the genre. Along the way, she has crooned in Paris and Prague, collaborated on a film about Elvis impersonators, and appeared as a character in a detective novel. Her latest quirky spin is jazz covers of Led Zeppelin songs, featured on her newest opus, INSTEAD OF LIGHT (produced by Blue Note veteran Danny Kopelson, with Drew Young of Atlanta's own 'Ruben Kincaid').