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Catching Up With Gary Husband

Ian Patterson By

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Gary Husband has wind in his sails these days. The pianist/keyboardist/drummer and composer has released three outstanding records in nearly as many years, all on Abstract Logix: the heady post-bop Hotwired (2009); the jazz-fusion all-star extravaganza Dirty & Beautiful Vol 1 (2010), and the eagerly awaited follow-up, 2012's Dirty & Beautiful Vol 2. His Dirty & Beautiful sets have brought together some of the biggest names in jazz fusion, whose myriad colors illuminate Husband's strong compositional frameworks.

What emerges from Vol 2—in addition to a whole bunch of sparks—is Husband's growing stature as a keyboard player of distinction. Husband made his mark as a pianist with two wonderful solo piano tributes to the music of guitarists John McLaughlin and Allan Holdsworth, but it as a keyboard player—a role he has filled in McLaughlin's 4th Dimension band since 2007— that he is now growing wings and taking flight. Former Mahavishnu Orchestra keyboardist Jan Hammer, who graces both volumes, may be an obvious reference, but Husband's playing, fiery on one hand, caressing on the other, possesses a touch and nuance all of his own; and, like his drumming, is endlessly inventive.

If Dirty & Beautiful Vol 1 was one of the records of 2010, then Vol 2 promises to be one of the musical highlights of 2012.

All About Jazz Dirty and Beautiful Vol 2 sounds like it must have been a lot of fun to record; there's so much energy and so many sparks flying.

Gary Husband Oh yeah. Both volumes have been tremendous fun. The sense of satisfaction and the fulfillment I feel is gigantic. I'm really happy how the records turned out and how they sound too—particularly the new one.

AAJ: It sounds great. The record gets off to a terrific start with "If the Animals Had Guns Too," which features wonderful guitar work from Ray Russell. He's been around since the 1960s and lent his sound to an enormous amount of famous music, and yet still flies under the radar as far as the public are concerned. Could you talk a little about his contribution to this track?

GH: Ray is a contemporary of John McLaughlin in the studio session musician circuit in England in the 1960s. You can trace Ray's name to so much stuff back then. I got to know him in the early '80s when he had a band called RMS with [bassist] Mo Foster and [drummer] Simon Phillips. Simon was doing a lot of different stuff in those days and I got to do a few deps with the band. One concert we did was with [arranger] Gil Evans. Then about five or six years ago I brought some compositions to his solo album Goodbye Svengali (Cuneiform, 2006), which I also played on. So we started playing together again after a decade or two in between [laughs]. That's been a pleasure since he's a terrific player.

AAJ: The featured musicians sound perfectly suited to the music on each track; how much thought went into musician/song selection?

GH: A lot. I chose people for the various pieces very carefully, or I wrote and prepare pieces for specific musicians. "If the Animals Had Guns Too" was a good choice for Ray. He's playing better than ever. What a way to start a record, with him going ballistic like that. I loved it.

AAJ: Bassist Jimmy Johnson also plays a storm on that track. You two obviously go back awhile in guitarist Allan Holdsworth's band. What do you like about playing with Johnson?

GH: The pure music; I mean, playing with Jimmy is one of the easiest performing relationships I've ever had. It's no coincidence that we're great friends and I think that's reflected in the way we play together too. He's such a musician; meticulous, but also kind of a rock 'n' roller inside. He has the whole melodic thing because he played clarinet, and he knows exactly where to put all those great notes of his. I always cherish the chances that we get to play together so I'm really happy he's on both of these volumes of Dirty & Beautiful.

AAJ: Another musician who plays superbly is tenor saxophonist Sean Freeman, who might surprise his fans in Level 42 with his solo on McLaughlin's composition, "New Blues, Old Bruise."

GH: I hope fans of Level 42 discover this side of his playing, which actually isn't too dissimilar really, as he plays with the same intensity and truly inspired spirit whoever he plays with. Sean's true passion is to improvise though, and I think that couldn't be more evident by what he does here. He's such a soulful musician. The solo I used was pretty much his first, and I was sobbing when he did it I was so moved. But these records [Dirty and Beautiful Vols 1 & 2] are full of that though—people cropping up in unlikely musical styles and in circumstances they're not really known for being a part of. I get a real thrill out of presenting that.

AAJ: "New Blues Old Bruise" is one of McLaughlin's strongest compositions.

GH: Yes, sure, it's very strong, and it's one I've been playing live with him for the last few years. It's really one of my faves, but I wanted to take it a little slower and give it more moodiness. With the sax in there it's probably got more of a jazz moodiness. I'm really happy about this alternative rendition of it.

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