Gary Husband's Drive: Hotwired
Keeping one foot in the jazz tradition and the other on a path to where the music not just can go, but must go is a dicey challenge, even for the most forward-thinking. In many respects, it's the musicians who have spread themselves well beyond even the most distant fringes of jazz who are best prepared to find their way towards a new amalgam that's undeniably jazz but doesn't feel trapped in a glass showcase. Drummer/keyboardist Gary Husband has led a career that's included work in the fusion arena with two guitarists with an unmistakable eye on the futureAllan Holdsworth and John McLaughlin. He's also worked in the pop worldwith artists including Level 42, Ron Sexmith and Chris Squire.
Husband's own releasestoo few, and too far-betweenhave ranged from interpretive solo piano excursions dedicated to his two favorite guitaristsThe Things I See: Interpretations of the Music of Allan Holdsworth (Angel Air, 2004) and A Meeting of the Spirits: Interpretations of the Music of John McLaughlin (Alternity, 2006)to collaborative efforts with a larger cast of charactersAspire (Jazzizit, 2004)and on-the-road electronic experimentationThe Complete Diary of a Plastic Box (Angel Air, 2008).
Hotwired, with Husband's now nearly two year-old group Drive, represents a number of firsts for a musician who has transcended the reputation of being a drummer who doubles on keys, to a full-fledged quadruple-threat: drummer, keyboardist, composer and bandleader. Husband's encyclopedic view of music has never been better realized than with Drive, a group that combines the post-bop sensibilities of mid-'60s Miles Davis with contemporary textures and tonalities, making Hotwired an album that manages to swing when it needs to, be as free as it wants to be, and to explore colors through the use of technology that lends it a modernistic edge far beyond its unmistakably traditional roots that still somehow smack of something distinctly British.
While Drive is largely acoustic, and Husband's predilection for drums on this date makes it an often harmonically open-ended group that operates largely without a chordal foundation, this group of relative unknowns who should be better knowntrumpeter Richard Turner, who also brings his own electronics to the table, saxophonist Julian Siegel, who is beginning to build a reputation of his own in the UK, where the group resides, and bassist Michael Janisch, whose powerful, Charles Mingus-informed playing drives the engine of a number of British groupsmanage to traverse considerable territory. Original compositions like Husband's high energy, totally acoustic and solo-rich "The Defender" turn complex and episodic on Drive's imaginative reading of Level 42's "Heaven in My Hands," which runs the gamut from soft ballad, with Turner and Siegel orbiting around Husband's elegant piano; to gutsy, irregularly metered, bass riff and backbeat-driven funk, colored by synth textures running across the stereo soundscape; to solo sections that range from painfully lyrical to gritty and cathartic.
"The Defender" is a powerful opener, where Husband proves himself a drummer as capable in acoustic post-bop territory as he always has been in fusion contexts; it's just a different kind of energy, and a looser, more free-wheeling approach to interplay. Janisch's visceral tone and hard-strummed chords that lay the song's foundation make it clear he's got more in common with William Parker than he does Dave Holland, though he can groove just as facilely. Husband enters with an explosion of sound that's an amalgam of Tony Williams and Elvin Jones: loose, responsive and, at the same time, propulsive. The blues-based "Take the Coltrane Around" swings with a vengeance, Turner's trumpet in turns soft and warm, then pungent and stabbing, more Freddie Hubbard and Woody Shaw than Miles Davis. While Husband does manage to overdub a brief piano solo that's just as impressive, proving beyond a shadow of a doubt that he's growing in leaps and bounds, it's all too brief, before Siegel enters with another solo of stunning invention, driven hard by Husband and Janisch's unshakable but always searching forward motion.
Husband's involvement in the knotty work of Holdsworth and McLaughlin pays big dividends, but this time in the acoustic idiosyncrasies of "Josy," where once again Turner and Siegel hover and orbit together, at times coming together in stunning confluence, at other times seeming bent on divergent paths. The mood turns darker on "The Agony of Ambiguity," with Husband's mallets creating a more orchestral ambience over Janisch's pedal tone and a solo section that's a specific feature for Siegel, whose dark tone slowly fades the tune down to darkness.
Hotwired may lean more towards Husband the drummer, but on the relatively brief "One Prayer"an impressionistic tune that begins as an empathic piano/sax duo before Turner and Janisch enter for its succinct, repetitive themeHusband continues to prove that piano is no second instrument, despite his greater reputation as a drummer.
Husband has always been a busy player, moving from project to project as a guest. Not since his early days and The New Gary Husband Trio of 1999 has he worked with a regular group for such a lengthy period of time. Wisely waiting until the group had clocked some gigging time before recording Hotwired in July, 2008, Drive is the kind of group that shouldn't be a one-time affair. With its distinct combination of free-thinking post-bop and contemporary sonorities, Husband has truly hit the mark with Hotwired and a group that, if at all possible, needs to stay together and be heard live outside the United Kingdom.
Tracks: The Defender; Heaven in my Hands; 10/4; The Agony of Ambiguity; Deux Deux's Blues; Take the Coltrane Around; One Prayer; Angels Over City Square; Take 5.
Personnel: Gary Husband: drums, piano, synthesizer; Richard Turner: trumpet, electronics; Julian Siegel: tenor/soprano saxophones; Michael Janisch: bass.