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Interviews

Gary Husband: There were these three Yorkshiremen...

By Published: February 16, 2009

The Musicians And The Songs

AAJ: The song "Heaven In My Hand" is an old Level 42 number. You've had a very long association with Level 42, and bassist Mark King in particular. Do you know if that old story about King learning to play slap bass in two weeks is true?

GH: Probably. He's a pretty able sort of guy. He's the kind of guy who can fix your car without necessarily knowing anything about cars. I hate this kind of guy! (laughs) It wouldn't surprise me if he learnt to play bass in two weeks, put it that way. With this gig though, well, I sort of considered the original Level 42 the real band in all honesty, and in what I do, I work very much in the capacity of a session musician in a sense, playing old music, most of which somebody else played on.

It's my challenge to make it work and feel as good as I can though, and I just concentrate on making sure I'm a strong, reliable and dependable drummer in order to make the show go right. I don't want to play it down at all, but I do see my role for what it is—it's fulfilling and always challenging because I'm not by nature a jazz-funk player, so I have to really work at that. And I do, always, whenever I play and tour with the band. I got a little better at it over the years, slowly but surely.

Gary Husband's Drive Gary Husband's Drive l:r: Julian Siegel, Gary Husband, Michael Janisch, Richard Turner



AAJ: This song, "Heaven In My Hands" on your album has a kind of Miles Davis

Miles Davis
Miles Davis
1926 - 1991
trumpet
-like feel to it, and I hear Miles in quite a lot of what you do. You've cited him as a major influence before, and I hear a bit of Miles in your trumpet player Richard Turner. Is that one of the reasons that you liked his playing, because he's somehow reminiscent of Miles?

GH: Actually I didn't hear it, but you know I was taken with Richard Turner on a few different levels. The first I heard of him was on a track where he was effortlessly improvising in 5/4—and very fluently too. I do particularly love people who can feel easy in different time signatures.

I like to be able to play with the time and get into sophisticated rhythmic ideas in music like this, and Richard has a natural flair and a real good handle on rhythm. He doesn't panic and flounder—actually he's too cool to panic and flounder!

Another thing is that he doesn't sound like by-the-book bebop, you know, and there's so much proficiency in a lot of players these days, seemingly being able to easily turn out a lot of bop-type phrases which sound kind of "learned" to me. But that really isn't the deal with Richard; he's kind of got his own approach and I can tell him apart from everybody else already. That was an element immediately attractive to me.

Actually, in the studio, he was really dissatisfied with some of the solos he was playing—you know, little cracked notes here and there, little tuning things or little things where he didn't make the phrase. And I said, "Listen man, I want you to leave those, all those kind of things are full of expression to me. I like hearing that pain. It's an edge that I really heard and loved in Miles."

AAJ: That resonates with me—there are a couple of tracks, "Deux Deux's Blues" and "Take the Coltrane," with trumpet intervention where it sounds at times like there's something on his lips or on the end of his trumpet, which gives a slightly rasping, fragile sound, an unclear sound, and I liked it a lot; it sounds a little original.

GH: I like it too. And back to this little conversation we had, Richard just went home one night and he came back the next day, and on the Ellington-inspired "Take the Coltrane Around," he played a really different kind of solo. And I was really pleased that we'd had that conversation because he'd felt a confidence as a result of it to produce something that wasn't like a full-on, red hot jazz-blues solo, and that was really what I wanted out of him. He found a piece of himself he didn't really know, and I like it that he did.

AAJ: I was speaking recently to the drummer Eddie Locke

Eddie Locke
1930 - 2009
drums
who was Coleman Hawkins
Coleman Hawkins
Coleman Hawkins
1904 - 1969
sax, tenor
drummer for years right up until Hawkins died. And Eddie, who's pushing 80, now still had things to say, and he was saying that jazz has kind of got lost because a lot of musicians in his opinion are technically very proficient, but there's little feeling, no swing, the original voice is not there. And that maybe echoes a little of what you are saying.

GH: Yeah, I look for that in musicians and when it's not there, I miss it. When somebody plays, I want to hear and sense the musician's life in what they do—what they've been through, what they reach for. I want to hear a bit about their inner complexities as a person. I love to hear a good strong, strong character and distinctive personality in musicians.

AAJ: What's Richard Turner's background?

GH: He's new—too young to have a background! Well, he's from Leeds, from the same shire as me, Yorkshire, and he's making a name for himself in London—not only with his excellent playing but also out of what he's doing getting involved in running jazz clubs and things too. My conviction is we'll all be hearing a lot more about Richard within a few years.

AAJ: Another track on the album, "!0/4," which is a Julian Siegel tune, has a kind of [trumpeter] Don Cherry

Don Cherry
Don Cherry
1936 - 1995
trumpet
/Art Ensemble of Chicago vibe to it. He's another very talented musician. What can you tell us about Julian Siegel?

GH: Julian I've know quite a few years now, and we've played together in different contexts. He's a good friend, a sweet, sweet man, and a jewel of a musician. In fact, he started a quartet a few years ago that I was involved in, and I also got to play on his first album.

He's a very soulful musician; he plays just like he is as a man. He has a very kind of quirky thing about him, and again there's no heavy bebop format. He speaks more than he deals in lines sometimes—you know, a little bit like a Wayne Shorter

Wayne Shorter
Wayne Shorter
b.1933
saxophone
-thing, but in his own way. I love that. He's beautiful on this record.

Gary HusbandAAJ: Wayne Shorter I hear a fair amount in your music, and on this album I hear it in two songs in particular: "The Agony of Ambiguity" and the beautiful "One Prayer" which I like a lot. Is this Wayne Shorter's influence in these tunes?

GH: Actually, there's a little development in "The Agony of Ambiguity" piece that, when I finished it I thought, wow, there's a little bit of Weather Report in that. It's funny, it's never by intention, but I see it afterwards. It's got a little lost feeling to it, a kind of searching, innocent quality to that melody, and I wanted him to play it really childlike.

I remember in a lot of the instructions that I gave him regarding the mood for the piece—everything I was saying, I seemed to be getting nearer and nearer to blurting out, "Oh look, just play it like Wayne Shorter!" (laughs) But I wouldn't have ever done that. Not really.

I must say that each piece is straight out of the Duke Ellington

Duke Ellington
Duke Ellington
1899 - 1974
piano
methodology. I love writing for people, and when I choose musicians this carefully... once I've got them, I love writing for them out of a wish to highlight them as the individuals they are. I wanted to write something for all the guys in this band that corresponds with their make-up and personalities, and to try and make them feel at home—and from there give them a hard time. (laughs)

AAJ: The partnership you have with Michael Janisch is absolutely smoking. He gets such great sounds from his bass. What can you tell me about Michael Janisch?

GH: Well, Michael is also a new acquaintance of mine. I met him only a couple of years ago. The first time I heard him I was aware right away of this really robust, in-your-face approach of his. My type of bassist, and he has great time and a great spirit. He just possesses exactly what the bass should be about, particularly in this kind of group. I couldn't wish for a better participation than the one I instantly found with him.

AAJ: The pair of you sounds just great on this album. You strike up a wonderful partnership. Did you guys connect musically from the get-go, or is there a lot of hard graft involved to sound so tight but loose?

GH: Well, that connection was really important to me, and I'm glad you hear it, I'm glad you felt it. In any group—and this group is no exception—the bass and drums have to really be tight. I need a strong bassist, someone confident and who has great conviction. I don't really believe you can teach those qualities, really. I think you basically have it or you don't.

Also, it's just about the chemistry too, and how compatible someone's feeling of pulse is with your own. As long as someone's strong in these areas though, I'm always going to be able to play with them. Michael's got it all in abundance, and in him I got the guy I was looking for in this group. It's just a great feeling of instinctive trust, assurance and solidity between us, in spite of the fact we've still only played a handful of times.

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