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Gary Husband: The Gemini Dimension

Gary Husband: The Gemini Dimension

Courtesy C. Andrew Hovan

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My one truth, and the thing I can remember being most paramount from day one, is music—and that music meant everything to me. It’s an incredible thing to realize this more and more; at the age I am now, and to know that it was always this way.
—Gary Husband
Even if forced to count just one of the two musical associations he's most noted for—a 35-year long relationship playing with the late Allan Holdsworth, and a 15-year long (and counting) stint in John McLaughlin's 4th Dimension—Gary Husband would still easily make many people's musician watchlist. But with both to his credit, (each on a different instrument, no less), the drummer/keyboardist's resume taken as a whole reads like an embarrassingly rich litany of explorations that's hard to not marvel at.

Since his modestly conceived 1998 solo debut, Diary of a Plastic Box—recorded entirely on the road while touring as a sideman—-Husband has amassed an impressive collection of his own projects as a leader, collaborator, or solo performer. And in addition to being formidable on either chosen vehicle of expression, he's also a stylistic metamorph—at times plunging into disparate styles full-bore or blurring their boundaries completely.

Among other things, our lengthy conversation covered those famous associations, a newly forged one with guitarist Alf Terje Hana (see corresponding interview) in his latest project The Trackers, bonding with Chick Corea before his passing, and the perils of musical duality.

All About Jazz: You're in the midst of gearing up for a 4th Dimension tour, is that right?

Gary Husband: It's that and the usual bunch of things crammed together. I'm told that maybe it's because I'm a Gemini or something. I have this cacophony of things that I'm diving in and out of all the time. I'm currently writing a Bill Evans project for classical piano trio that'll feature myself on piano along with the two string players.

AAJ: You're interpreting Bill Evans? That sounds interesting.

GH: Yeah. I actually came up with the idea a long time ago. I know a couple of real heavyweight classical players here in London, violinist Viktoria Mullova and cellist Matthew Barley, and my original wish was to involve them. They're married and make a really unbeatable team. She's one of the highest and most respected exponents of Bach and Beethoven so with her it's very, very classical. With Matthew, there's a propensity to want to start improvising and throw himself into the unknown. He's very interested in any kind of situation where he can potentially expand, so I'm very happy to meet that balance where I've written a lot of things and left a lot open.

It's very nice but also quite a challenge. There's a sweetness and tenderness inherent in Bill's music. There's a romanticism, a connection to Ravel and Erik Satie, and such a pure beauty to it that it makes it very hard to avoid things becoming overly sentimental—especially when you're working with the sound of violin and cello.

So that presents big tasks that I'm really enjoying, but now as you said, I'm also getting ready for a tour with John McLaughlin. We haven't played together for quite a long time now, it seems.

AAJ: Has it been since the Meeting of the Spirits tour in 2017?

GH: That was the last big tour and certainly the last time in the States. We played a little just after that but nothing from then till now. We're doing some European dates, not that many of them, but it's a very tricky time. Over here [in the UK] they have the Brexit thing, that as you might expect I absolutely loath. That is now causing a lot of problems and hardships for working in Europe. You know, we think of ourselves as Europeans and yet three of us are on British passports—there's only Etienne Mbappe on bass who isn't. John's still got a British passport...

AAJ: Really? Hasn't he lived in Monaco for years?

GH: ... and New York before that. I know, I had the same response. It was incredible to see that he was still on a British passport. Similarly, [drummer] Ranjit Barot was actually born here in the UK. He grew up in India from the time he was a small child, but he's actually on a British passport as well.

AAJ: A few years back—around 2016/2017—John McLaughlin posted something on the internet to the effect of, "This is what I go through every time I want to tour the States... " It was an unbelievable series of hoops to jump through then. One can imagine that Brexit hasn't helped that any.

GH: I remember it also getting a little unfriendlier to enter the United States as an artist—irrespective of our credentials or visa status. It was hard there all of a sudden and now it's turning into that here now, even to the point of making it complicated to even return back to England. And because I'm a countryman of people who voted for this thing, I get a really different attitude from people in Europe now. I'm very sad about it, as all in all, the world is a much unfriendlier place from a touring perspective. I mean, it's to the point where they're going to start withholding instruments because I don't have a receipt for them—from sixteen years ago. I have to prove that it's mine? Or it will be withheld? I mean... damn it.

AAJ: That's just crazy. Well, good luck with the tour. Do you have anything new slated with the 4th Dimension, recording—wise?

GH: No. I had a bit to do with the last one of John's, Liberation Time (Abstract Logix, 2021), and that was all virtual. None of us were allowed out [due to Covid].

AAJ: Explain a little about how the band approached recording virtually.

GH: At whatever stage the tunes come to me, Ranjit our amazing drummer generally requires something to start vibing off. He wants some solos in there to work off, interactively. So, it would be down to me to play a solo —that I probably wouldn't keep—and John will already have a solo on the sequenced song. So the both of us would replace those, invariably after Ranjit lays down the drums because there's no substitute for that. You need the drums to really be the foundation, just as they are live.

AAJ: Do you feel like it's ever lacking in a way because you're not actually playing together, in the same room, in real-time?

GH: It's kind of incredible what experience can aid you with. John alluded to this when he said, "Once you put the headphones on, you're in the same room." I actually know what he means by this as far as the fact we are "in the act." Of course, you are hearing people who have already laid tracks down and that obviously cannot then interact back with what you are doing, but I can bounce off what's there and how I consider people are going to react based on the experience of knowing how we do things ordinarily. That's the advantage of working with these guys for so long. I know when I start stabbing around behind John, getting aggressive, Ranjit sort of turns up the heat. I know what prods him and provokes him and I have a sense of where he'll do it, invariably. That's where the experience comes in. I pretty much know when Etienne will step on the gas too. John, he's usually a cat out of the bag right from the get-go. So once you know your fellow musical associates, you can pretty accurately guess where they're going to be during the trajectory of a performance. So we worked in a very different but tuned-in way, with anticipation of those notions and it all seemed to just work.

AAJ: Ten-plus years together as a unit will definitely do that. There is really no substitute for what the bonafide band or long—term relationship contributes to the music. You've been fortunate in that regard, having long-term associations with both McLaughlin and the late Allan Holdsworth over the span of your career.

GH: Yes. Thirty-five years plus with Allan. And every one of those later times with him felt like the first time, but with this significant evolution between us evident. You can look right down the decades and see the same roots were always there, but the relationship always looked for ways to morph, blend, grow, and travel. We would spend lots of time apart, but it didn't matter how long it was, or how each of us had developed respectively, we would always come together like [Husband interlocks fingers]. It was kind of freaky to me especially as we were essentially quite disparate personalities. The very structure of our relationship often seemed to be built on antagonism (laughs). When we weren't arguing outright, we sort of antagonized each other in the act of playing together. And he dug it that way. I don't know if anyone ever hears that, but I do (laughs).

AAJ: Another way of saying it would be that you were each other's catalysts, perhaps?

GH: Yeah, that would work (laughs). Our relationship really went through changes but it never lost its "thing," as they say. With Allan, music was something that was usually never directly spoken about. When it was spoken about —the music of others —we would often have conflicting views because we had fairly different tastes. Maybe we were quite odd bedfellows, in a way. If we talked trumpet players, he loved Kenny Wheeler and I loved Miles [Davis]. If it was saxophone he loved [John]Coltrane and Michael Brecker while I was into Wayne Shorter, Albert Ayler, and George Adams more. If it was classical, I'd be studying Stravinsky's Mass but he would be more into Aaron Copland. And I mean obviously, they're all great masters, but Allan and I, we had different starting points, really. But then we would listen to the Joni Mitchell Both Sides Now (Reprise, 2000) album and both weep at the beauty of Vince Mendoza's string arrangements, or one of the Shirley Horn records. So we had meeting points, definitely—even the most unlikely ones sometimes.

AAJ: Are there some takeaways you've gleaned as a musician from each of these long and very different musical relationships with McLaughlin and Holdsworth?

GH: I think I certainly have taken a good amount from them both over the many years, for sure—them both being the musical separatists they have been—but also in extra-musical ways too. With Allan coming through Tony Williams—who came through Miles Davis—there was this "lack of information" thing I could see coming down that line. This is what Tony reportedly did with Allan. Tony wouldn't tell him anything [about how to play] and Allan wouldn't tell me anything either. Allan would say, "You know what to do. Find something you want to do in it." So immediately, at the very beginning of my career, I was put in this position of being given complete free reign and liberty to explore a contribution to his music in the very way that it occurred to me, naturally and it just always worked out fine. He did let me know when it didn't, but for the most part, he seemed always to enjoy the results.

And though I was very encouraged to find my own ways by Allan, he actually wasn't the source of all that in me—more of a later encourager I would say. Even when I learned classical piano as a child, my aspirations were as an improviser. My biggest motivation was to get to the land of the unknown, to improvise, and I strove to get that happening on my both instruments as soon as possible.

I have to say though that before Allan, I had the benefit of years of improvisational sessions with [guitarist] Steve Topping. Steve and I had a big connection together in an improvising realm, which had a very big effect on my early development. They were really important, formative days for us both I think. They really established a lot in terms of both our imaginations and how we formed. It all stemmed from a collective inspiration we had derived from certain key musicians or composers. We both wanted to move forward in the way we were probably destined to go—and had recognized in each other—but we really couldn't find anybody else [to do it with]. It was something no one else was interested in, let alone participating in with us. It was very much our world, our private little sanity maintenance program (laughs). Those days were all about discovery so that was a well-established ongoing journey in me well before I got with Allan.

So, as much as not getting any direction from Holdsworth would intrigue me in a certain way, there were real benefits to that—for him as much as me, I think. I got frustrated about it from time to time but I realized it would trigger some kind of an intensity about the situation. So that antagonistic thing would come into it again. I was guilty of doing things [musically] almost to spite him sometimes and vice-versa, and we'd end up collapsing in laughter about it. It was quite complex, him and I, and our way with each other.

AAJ: It's interesting because both Holdsworth and McLaughlin have that line back to Miles Davis in different ways. The whole "non-direction" thing that Holdsworth experienced with Tony Williams, and Williams with Davis, brings to mind the story of that session where Davis famously gave McLaughlin intentionally cryptic direction, saying "play like you never played a guitar before."

GH: Yes. Well, maybe this is a kind of connection between John and Allan that I never really perceived.

Once, John once gave me some direction that led me up an ambiguous path. It was the title track on the album To The One (Abstract Logix, 2010) and it's got a bit of [the Mahavishnu Orchestra's] "Lila's Dance" in it. John wanted me to play drums on that, in a quite probing way. Yet he had programmed some drums on the demo which threw me a curveball. So much so that I was thinking, "Ok, this calls for something quite laid back, quite tender, and probably something quite gentle... "

Wrong. John wanted rhythmic activity; he wanted interesting motion, constantly evolving with a lot of metric modulating and bold interaction. He wanted a dimension of constant improvisation from the drums and I couldn't see how that fit over this very sweet and beautiful sequence of chords. I didn't really understand how to do it but I tried something and he cut me off a couple of times saying, "No, it's not working. How about if I come out and stand in front of you?" and I thought to myself this is probably the worst thing he could have done for my nerves! He said, "No, no I've got an idea. I'm going to dance it for you."

Now, this is a totally private moment—just John, the engineer, and me. So John comes into the studio, pulls the baffles to one side and says, "Let's go again and I'm going to show you what I want from you." I'm like, laughing incredulously, "Ok sir, let's go... " All of a sudden he starts adopting all these funny kinds of shapes and strange movements [Husband recreates motions], angles, and dramatic gestures...

AAJ: Direction through interpretive dance?

GH: Yeah, and he's going through this strange trajectory—this sort of medieval dance on acid—-while being so inside this act, with such inspiring conviction emanating from him, he was showing me exactly what he wanted me to do in the piece. So I watched him and went with him. I played my interpretation to the track, in line with what I thought he was... dancing. Then took off the headphones at the end and thought to myself, "That was probably the biggest failure I've ever been responsible for... " I thought there was absolutely no point in checking it at all, yet John said, "Let's go and check it out." And, you know, it's just like the In A Silent Way (Columbia, 1969) story, I couldn't believe it...

So, the point of this is that John was showing me how to come at this from a place I didn't know, and he was showing me something about me I didn't know or could have anticipated. This was all just... [Husband mimics head exploding]. I said, "You just did a Miles Davis on me.." John dismissed my comment, but I said, "No, you did... you did." I'll never forget that. So when you ask me what I've learned, there's a lot right there in just one afternoon.

What I don't know about either of them, particularly Allan, is anything about what they actually [musically] do—what they play, how they move in lines or the harmony or anything. I never asked Allan anything, in all of those decades. Ever.

AAJ: Why?

GH: Because I deliberately wanted not to know, if that makes any sense.

AAJ: Because the mystery was valuable?

GH: I just wanted to feel it. That's as much as I wanted to know. I didn't want to know about the scales.

AAJ: These relationships with Holdsworth, McLaughlin—and Topping—were obviously important for you. Recently, you decided to form a new one. How did the partnership with Norwegian guitarist Alf Terje Hana—-and your new band, The Trackers—come about?

GH: I met Alf through an email that just dropped into my inbox. It was an introductory email and an invitation for me to play on a track. I had known nothing of him previously, but he sent me this track and said, "I won't waste your time, but if any of this grabs you, what would it take to get [your] keyboards on it?" It was a track called "The Elders Too"—a reference to the Weather Report track, "The Elders" but much more out there. I really just remember responding to the atmosphere of the track and was immediately transported by it. I don't think I had heard anything quite like it, ever, and I didn't even know if I had it in me to give him an articulate answer. What I did know was that I was very taken by the music—and quite attracted to giving it a go—but I couldn't promise anything.

After spending some time with it, I came up with a treated electric piano sound that was vaguely [Joe] Zawinul-esque and weaved my synth improvising in and out of Alf's guitar lines—trying to play in the holes, with silences as much as with notes. Alf loved it and said it was perfect. I asked him if he wanted another take or to maybe have me try some other stuff and he said, "No, it's perfect." That rang a bell, like "Wow, that's something that doesn't happen every day." So finding someone who had this whole other way really drew me in and kind of took hold.

Not too long before this Allan had passed. I really hadn't fully realized just how much I relied on the relationship with him from one year to the next. Even though he and I would be apart from each other for long periods of time, it was always on the cards we would always get together again at some point in the not-too-distant future. Then suddenly, he wasn't there anymore. Not only was it so painful in terms of how much I was going to miss him as a person, but also how the reality would strike me that this whole vehicle we shared was gone—and with it all the roads it had laid open for me, musically.

I knew I had to find something to put in its place. I knew I wanted it to be a guitar-based project—-but nothing like John or Allan—and something that I put together myself. I'm attracted to musicians for their dimension, their breadth—what's conceptually going on. In Alf, I heard a lot. There's a lot of mystery there, the cool haunted cinema effects, whacky stuff, retro sounds, his reach as a player... and that all really stirred me. I could hear a new realm featuring all of that.

I also thought it would be advantageous to approach him because the differences in the way Alf plays would bring out differences in me. He's not typically a full-on rhythm player, so right away it would require different disciplines and meeting points from me. The drums would have to occupy a slightly different place to secure things rhythmically while allowing Alf to be the colorist and texturalist along with his very different way of improvising. So I thought if I could make that work, it really could be something. I wanted to go with that and roll with those challenges—roll with the different tensions that arise out of that. And of course, write for the band myself. But on drums, I wanted the spirit I employed with Allan to move into the present, differently. I didn't want it to resemble anything I had done before.

AAJ: Well, you seem to certainly have achieved that with Vaudeville 8:45 (Abstract Logix, 2022). It's definitely like nothing else in your catalog.

GH: Yeah, I think so. It was incredible how an answer to everything came. It all fell at my feet with that first email. I couldn't leave it alone. I even had the name of the band immediately—The Trackers. And once again, my dear friend and colleague at Abstract Logix, Souvik Dutta, instantly committed to this new trio concept and facilitated the recording and its release. No questions were asked. "Just do it!" he said!

AAJ: When you first played with Hana, it was on keyboards. What made you concentrate on drums for the Trackers?

GH: Oh, because I needed a drums-led project. I really needed it for my drumming side. Plus, I felt concentrating on drums would give Alf the sonic space his style and vision call for. I only played keyboards if I felt there was something lacking. Some organ or electric piano, if it was called for. I play maybe two synth solos on the album. I should also add that we were both involved in the composing side of this album and what my writing was asking from his guitar in the way of harmony is something really different for him. Much of my typical realm of harmony shaping can be quite unguitar-like. I'm no guitarist but I have a guitar just as a barometer of possibility. It was important to get these note clusters in there etc. And it was like, "Hey, if I can play these shapes, Alf certainly can." (laughs)

AAJ: All that said, in addition to a very palpable use of space, the album also has a lot of uncommon sonics going on.

GH: Yeah, Alf has got some kind of very hip, forwarding programming going on too. I always had a propensity for atmosphere in my own music, so again, this tied me in with Alf. I love the cinematic touches he integrates into all he comes up with. When we start doing gigs, however, we're going to need a keyboard player to free Alf up a bit.

AAJ: Well that's exciting that you're going to tour this project. In addition to you concentrating on drums, one thing that makes The Trackers stand out from your more recent collaborations is that you turned it into a band situation with the addition of many great guest bassists.

GH: We really didn't plan it to happen that way but it did. And seeing as I had used a lot of invited guest bassists on Dirty And Beautiful Vols.I and II (Abstract Logix, 2010 and 2012), it got me back into that mindset of figuring out which bassist would be best for what piece.

We haven't played live yet but the bassist in The Trackers is actually still a non-entity right now. And that's not an easy fix, due to the sheer diversity of all of that music. I know any of the bassists we had on the record would be incredible with it all—and many of them have said if we put a tour together, they would be there—but I find myself wondering whether they would perhaps enjoy some tunes more than others, the material being a little on the diverse side.

I'm so happy though that we've had such great reactions to the music. Plus it's really great that at last, people seem to really enjoy an album that I've done (laughs). Usually, it's "well, you're niche taste." Let's face it, I'm a little marginal in a lot of ways, with some of the piano albums I've done and this and that. But I was very upfront to Souvik, "I want this categorized as a rock record. This ain't no regular jazz or jazz fusion album... " (laughs)

AAJ: It's easy to see how categorization or branding might be a difficult thing for a musician such as yourself. You incorporate and exude so many different influences at different times. One project that comes to mind is your Force Majeure DVD, which features a host of great musicians including Jim Beard, Matt Garrison, Randy Brecker, Arto Tuncboyaciyan, Elliot Mason and Jerry Goodman. The trilogy of evocations you wrote—-inspired by artists as disparate as Björk, John McLaughlin, and Burt Bacharach—serves as a wonderful totem for your eclectic nature.

GH: Well, I'm happy to say that that's what won me the commission to do that project, which was funded by a great organization that existed in this country called The Contemporary Music Network. The adjudicated funding was open to specific projects that they felt came under the banner or criteria of "widening" or "inclusive" in ways not really been explored before. They immediately saw the ties between these three mavericks, as I did.

AAJ: That's quite fortunate that they recognized Bacharach as a maverick in the same way that you did. Not everyone might—-at least not immediately.

GH: Well, I mean, if you go back and watch a Burt Bacharach interview, it's almost like watching a Miles interview: [imitating Bacharach] "No, it's five beats because it has to be. I need that beat for it to say what I need it to say." He got thrown off of major labels because of that.

AAJ: Some might argue that those odd-metered phrasings were a big part of what made Bacharach's music so compelling at times.

GH: Yeah, exactly. There's one interview with him that was actually quite recent where Bacharach was saying how the record companies would tell him "that these are the beginnings of a really great song" and that they would make a deal to put it with some great singers—big names like a Kenny Rogers or Frank Sinatra—-only if he would "rewrite the whole thing in four." and Burt was like, "No deal." That's one of the massively inspiring things about him. His integrity and resistance to the kind of attitudes that were demanding he change his music from the way it made sense to him into a way it didn't. I have total admiration for that.

Another interviewer once asked Bacharach, "What on earth makes you integrate the odd bars into your songs?" He says, "I don't know. Too much listening to John Cage, I guess."(laughs) You just don't expect to hear those kinds of things from guys like Burt Bacharach. It gives you such a different sense of who they are and makes you aware of a much larger breadth to their musical concept.

And there were other artists—The Beach Boys, Antonio Carlos Jobim—I could have chosen for the Force Majeure project, but I thought it quite pertinent to include Björk. She was, and is, on the outside looking in, in a way. There's this restless abandon, a non-willingness to produce anything typical. Just look at the people she chose to work with. Some really atypical associations took place on her records which inspired me.

Then of course, John [McLaughlin] but it was not so much the John that people know these days. I was focusing on the guy that people talked about here in London in the early sixties and what he was doing with Tony Roberts in the Danny Thompson Trio and the like.

AAJ: This is before Extrapolation (Marmalade, 1969)?

GH: Yes. I've got other things of John from before that, and there's a Sandy Brown record, Hair—At Its Hairiest (Fontana, 1969), from just before Extrapolation, I think. Sandy Brown was a traditional jazz clarinetist and he got lots of modernists in the band to play against traditional players on that record. I thought that was a really hip thing to do especially since it worked out (laughs). And among them, in the mix, is John. You'd go from this trad jazz trombone solo to the angular modernist that I felt John to be at the time. It's quite something. I was so inspired by that and also saw him as someone who didn't compromise his vision in the slightest. I definitely had to include him as one of the mavericks depicted in the Force Majeure project.

So I tried to string together things that would be evocative of selective periods or aspects of their work. We had a very nice concert at Queen Elizabeth Hall that was filmed. At the end of the Bacharach evocations, there's a little lonely "tutti" theme with a trumpet and trombone unison. It's been quite emotional and with a lot of energy up until that point, then all that dissipates and they're just playing this little phrase over descending harmony: [imitates phrase], "Day-dut, dut, doo-dee... " that keeps going over, 'round and 'round. It's quite plaintive and it's slightly reminiscent of "The Look of Love" or something, but it isn't it. It's not unlike a little brass part to any one of the medium [tempo] Burt songs. So after the show, somebody was whistling at the bar and I said, "Oh, you got it." He said, "Oh yes, that's one of my favorite Burt tunes." He didn't realize that I had written it. That was one of the biggest compliments I could have gotten.

AAJ: The DVD of the show has been difficult to find for a number of years but you recently released an album of audio highlights from that group. [Highlights From The Tour in 2004 (Moonjune Records, 2020)].

GH: Yeah, that's a nice little memento of that project, but as vibey as the DVD performance was, there was a lot of "flying by the seat of your pants" on everybody's part, mine included. And the highlights record consisted of extracts from board recordings we had on the subsequent ten-to-fourteen-date tour we did. What I really would have liked to have done was record a studio album of that material. It's still an ambition of mine but it's a big undertaking to get a lineup such as that to make a recording session, especially these days.

AAJ: You also did an expanded re-release of your very first solo outing, The Complete Diary of a Plastic Box (Angel Air, 2008). Perhaps it has something to do with the birthing method of the original album, but it's notable in that it's one of the few expanded releases in recent memory where the bonus material doesn't seem much like filler.

GH: It's nice that you should say that, even more so that you remember it. (laughs) It was a very idiosyncratic album to put out. I was using a first-generation DAT machine with a KORG M1. You could make sequences on it but to solo, you'd have to record it live to DAT because the mod wheel would take up too much memory. (laughs) But these were just kind of like recorded impressions. It was basically sanity maintenance while on a tour, having to play the same thing every night, with no creative fix at all. I was sitting at the workstation every night, in my hotel room, or even on the bus. That's where that album comes from, a long spread of sideman gigs over the years. I was playing, trying to do a job really well but I had to find other ways to come to terms with the fix I needed. So yeah, I put that together and [told the original record company] that I had recorded a lot of stuff on the road and they said, "Yeah, that sounds very interesting that you did that. I want to hear the results." So I sent it to them and I got a letter back basically saying, "Tell you what, we'll release it because we feel sorry for you." It was kind of like a free jazz label and they probably thought it was some kind of pop album or something. It was what it was, and you're probably the third person who has actually listened to it so... (laughs)

AAJ: One of the reasons I bring that album up is that in a fairly large catalog of releases under your name, very few of them read so purely you—-compositionally and stylistically—as Diary of a Plastic Box. Enthralling as it is, a vast portion of your catalog consists of evocations of, interpretations of, or inspired by others' work, or are very collaborative in nature. Diary of a Plastic Box is 100% you and, despite its modest means of realization, almost stands alone in this regard. What do you think of that assessment?

GH: Yeah, that's an interesting observation. I've never really thought about that before, though there is a fair amount of my writing on my two Dirty & Beautiful album releases. The thing about the two solo piano records—[The 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)— was that they both very much felt like re-composition, so to speak. It's a funny thing to try and describe but I had pretty much smashed the original compositions and rebuilt them very differently.

I had asked Allan if he minded me doing "a picture" of his music, in a really alternative way and he said "Sure man, that would be a wonderful thing." Then evidently he wasn't so sure because a few minutes later, I got a call from Allan's manager saying they wanted to know what I was going to do. I talked to Allan again and he sloughed it off saying it was the manager just doing his job and to just go ahead and do what I was going to do. So I made the record and he ended up being really touched by it. I think he heard the extent [of work I did] that wasn't a part of the original compositions. So those records contain a substantial amount of supplementary composition and in a sense, they do feel like I was writing them. I used none of Allan's harmony. The only things I took were top lines and melodies and for the most part, I chose to have them play out in settings that were very different from his definitive versions of the compositions.

AAJ: That's very true. In listening to both your Holdsworth and McLaughlin interpretations, they are often so far removed from the originals, that the titles are surprisingly necessary to help reveal the source compositions.

GH: I think on both of the albums there are certain selections where I was much more suggestive of the original versions but then I would quickly go way more adventurous on other things, for contrast. It's the producer in me. (laughs)

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Read Matthew Shipp: A Dozen Essential Albums
Read Bill Charlap's Stardust

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