It's almost a shame that Gary Husband's follow-up to the excellent Hotwired (Abstract Logix, 2009) did not take that exciting young ensemble to the next stage, were it not for the fact that Dirty & Beautiful brings together an exceptional line-up of some of the most innovative and influential musicians of the last forty years. Although Husband has formed decades-long musical relationships with guitarist Allan Holdsworth and Level 42 bassist Mark King, his projects as a leader have generally been characterized by their one-off nature; Husband as a drummer, pianist and composer, pours his heart and soul into a work and then moves on.
Given that most of the musicians assembled are leaders in their own right this project is unlikely to tour, but what remains is a fascinating addition to Husband's impressive discography, one which covers ground from jazz fusion and funk, to meditative mood pieces. The minimalist, solo keyboard piece "Afterglow" represents Husband's attraction to miniatures, best heard on The Complete Diary of a Plastic Box (Angel Air, 2008), and on his contribution to Asaf Sirkis' The Monk (SAM Productions, 2008). At just under a minute, however, the Jimi-Hendrix-inspired guitar of Robin Trower on Miles Davis' "YesternowPreview" is more of a Husband homage to one of his major influences than a carefully composed miniature.
Most of the compositions are for trio or quartet, with Husband often doubling on keyboards. Holdsworth's "Leave 'Em On" features bassist Jimmy Johnson and keyboardist Jan Hammer, in addition to the former Soft Machine guitarist. Holdsworth's role is one of atmospheric accompanist, leaving Hammer acres of space to stretch out with a biting yet highly melodic synth-guitar solo. Holdsworth also appears on the simmering "Boulevard Baloneyo," bringing the faintest of brushstrokes to this space-trippy canvas, a vehicle for Husband's powerfully compelling drumming. Oddly, Hammer does not play on his own composition, "Between the Sheets of Music," a slow-grooving number which features a fantastically wild solo from violinist Jerry Goodman.
Husband's "Dreams in Blue" is a dramatic ten-minute affair of shifting dynamics, with guitarist John McLaughlin carving out one of his most extended solos in recent years. The quiet mid-section sees Husband peel off a piano solo which builds in momentum to match McLaughlin's adrenalin-charged effort. With his other set of hands, Husband lays down intricate polyrhythms, with the constant ride cymbal sounding almost like an additional voice. Two other guitarists bring contrasting styles to the music: former Genesis man Steve Hackett lends his distinctive sound to the pretty "Moon Song"; while Steve Topping gets down and dirty on the funk-rock of "The Maverick," sounding like a logical extension to "Yesternow."
"Alverstone Jam" reunites Husband with King, and the pair groove on an irresistible slice of funk. Dirty & Beautiful Volume One is a wonderfully varied and vibrant recording which reaffirms Husband's singularity as a composer and adds to his reputation as a consummate, intuitive musician. If Volume Two is half as good, then spring 2011 can't come soon enough.
Track Listing: Leave 'Em On; Bedford Falls; Between the Sheets of Music; Yesternow (Preview); Afterglow; Dreams in Blue; Ternberg Jam; Moon Song; Swell; The Maverick; Boulevard Baloneyo; Alverstone Jam; Boulevard Baloneyo (Alternate Take, Japanese Edition Only Bonus Track).
Personnel: Gary Husband: drums (1-3, 6, 7, 10-13), organ (1), synthesizer (1), keyboards (5-9, 12); Allan Holdsworth: guitar (1, 3, 11, 13); Jan Hammer: keyboards (1); Jimmy Johnson: bass (1, 3, 6, 7, 11, 13); Laurence Cottle: bass (2, 8); Jerry Goodman: violin (3); Robin Trower: guitar (4); Livingstone Brown: bass (4); John McLaughlin: guitar (6); Steve Hackett: guitar (8); Steve Topping: guitar (10); Steve Price: bass (10); Mark King: bass (12).
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