Gary Husband has long cemented his reputation as one of fusion's premier drummershell, even Billy Cobham thought two was better than one and hired him as a second drummer. Husband's flexibility has seen him drum in the NDR Big Band, with jazz-funk outfit Level 42, and in a trio format with guitarist Robin Trower and bassist Jack Bruce.
Since the early '90s he has built an impressive discography as a leader which underlines his status as a composer of note. Two solo-piano albums, bold and personal interpretations of the music of guitarists and fellow Yorkshiremen, Allan Holdsworth and John McLaughlin, are a reminder of Husband's equally impressive skills as a classically trained pianistone with a unique vision.
Husband has collaborated with Holdsworth for nigh on thirty years, and has in recent times recorded and toured with McLaughlin; the inspiration drawn from these two giants of modern jazz-fusion guitar, both of whom speak of Husband with mutual reverence, has pushed Husband to make some pretty stunning musical statements of his own. Husband's story to date is, in a way, a tale of three Yorkshiremen.
Hotwired sees Husband at the head of a vibrant, pulsing acoustic quartet which recalls the best of Tony Williams' combos. It also reveals another side of Husband's drumming which has the snap and crackle of Elvin Jones no less.
Big BandsAll About Jazz:
- Big Bands
- The Musicians And The Songs
- On Drums
- Three Yorkshiremen
- On Composing And Allan Holdsworth
- On Piano
- Other Projects And Collaborations
- Coming Soon
You're in Germany with [composer] Colin Towns and the NDR Big band. What's the program of music you're playing?
Gary Husband: It's a suite of music that Colin Towns wrote some time ago, some of which I played on a recording, and it's always nice working for composersthere's quite a lot of reach in Colin's music. It's a pleasure, it's very creative, and of course this band is one of the greatest big bands in the world.
AAJ: You're very familiar with the NDR Big Band and Colin Towns, aren't you?
GH: Yeah, I come over a lot for lots of different programs, writers from Europe and America. Last year also we were on tour with the singer Al Jarreau and that was a very nice tour. It's always very varied when I go thereabstract sometimes, other times more traditional. And I never know what is going to be placed in front of me in the way of charts or style or anything beforehand.
AAJ: Your professional career, I guess, began in a big band, in the [trumpeter/band leader] Syd Lawrence Orchestra when you were a teenager. What did you learn from that experience, from playing in a big band at the age of sixteen?
GH: On a couple of different levels really. In England they used to have national service and you had to do your three years, and in a way this was a kind of equivalent of thatand not just the music and the performance of a particular kind of music, but also in life too. There was no band bus, so I had to arrange who I was going to meet at a particular point to take me where I would end up sleeping and who I would connect with the following day to get to another placeto have to get all that together at sixteen when your head is full of the Mahavishnu Orchestra was something. But it was a really great experience and grounding, really. I can really recommend it! (laughs)
AAJ: Your head was full of Mahavishnu Orchestra, but the Syd Lawrence Orchestra was Glenn Miller and Count Basie. Is that right?
GH: It was the whole gamut of big band material from the '30s to around the '70s, reallyfundamentally the music of Glenn Miller, who Syd rose to fame highlighting, but also the Dorsey brothers' bands, Harry James, Benny Goodman, Woody Herman, Basie, plus a lot of Sinatra hits and things.
I always had a passion for big bands anyway, but this just required a different discipline and me going back and trying to familiarize myself accurately with what the original big band drummers did there. I learnt the importance of doing research and fully preparing myself for the task in hand. Once that's done, it's always a special, exciting pleasure to play in a big band, and it's always very nice to return to it.
AAJ: Let's talk about your new album, Hotwired. To me the music sounds rooted in tradition yet utterly modern and progressive at the same time. Is that a fair comment?
GH: I appreciate that comment; that's a reaction I really like, thanks. I guess the fundamental inspiration behind this particular band stretches back to when I used to go to Ronnie Scott's years and years ago and see groups like [trumpeter] Freddie Hubbardtraditional kind of frontline trumpet/tenor kinds of things because I have always admired a nice, spirited, forceful, much more American approach to the ones I heard back home.
Subsequently, groups like the ones Ralph Peterson Jr. brings, a real drummer-led band, and of course Elvin Jones groups were always an inspiration, and I wanted to get something that really captured that spirit, but with the notable difference being no mainstay keyboard player or guitarist to create plenty of harmonic space, because everybody improvises in a very strong way and there's a really good blend with the people I've chosen for this band.
I always choose my musicians really carefully. Then there's the music, and I've been digging deep to find some nice ways that I feel work for this kind of unit. And as usual, it's got a bit of reach to it as well. I chase wider dimensions.
AAJ: The band, if I understand well, was originally a trio, but you talk about abandoning the trio and the original music compositions before you added Richard Turner on trumpet. Can you talk us through the birth and rebirth of this band?
GH: Originally I had the idea for a saxophone, acoustic bass and drums trio, where I'd contribute a little bit on piano. I came up with a series of compositions which I thought were going to work out well, but there was something in it that I just couldn't get away from, and that was that sonically it was just a trio blend. The palette wasn't wide enough, even though I wanted to do something with a lot of space. We did one gig and I ditched all the music.
You know, you dip your toe in the water and try out stuff, and it's always interesting to try out things on stage rather than in a little rehearsal room. But as I say, I basically just wasn't happy enough, and so I then abandoned it. A short time later I was checking out a MySpace friend request, and I found a trumpet player named Richard Turner that I really responded to on a few different levels. And I suddenly started really thinking about the addition of trumpet. This way, it would all go from being a trio to suddenly being a band, just with the addition of one guy.
It was a mammoth difference, and immediately I had the opportunity to write nice angular things between the sax and trumpet. And of course you have the rhythm taken care of too, so automatically it's a much more stimulating compositional and conceptual task.