Gary Husband: There were these three Yorkshiremen...

Ian Patterson By

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When somebody plays, I want to hear and sense the musician's life in what they do--what they've been through, what they reach for. I want to hear a bit about their inner complexities as a person.
Gary HusbandGary Husband has long cemented his reputation as one of fusion's premier drummers—hell, 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 pianist—one 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.

Chapter Index

  1. Big Bands
  2. Hotwired
  3. The Musicians And The Songs
  4. On Drums
  5. Influences
  6. Three Yorkshiremen
  7. On Composing And Allan Holdsworth
  8. On Piano
  9. Other Projects And Collaborations
  10. Coming Soon

Big Bands

All About Jazz: 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 composers—there'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 there—abstract 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 that—and 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 place—to 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, really—fundamentally 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 Hubbard—traditional 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.

Gary HusbandSubsequently, 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.


The Musicians And The Songs

AAJ: The song "Heaven In My Hand" is an old Level 42 number. You've had a very long association with Level 42, and bassist Mark King in particular. Do you know if that old story about King learning to play slap bass in two weeks is true?

GH: Probably. He's a pretty able sort of guy. He's the kind of guy who can fix your car without necessarily knowing anything about cars. I hate this kind of guy! (laughs) It wouldn't surprise me if he learnt to play bass in two weeks, put it that way. With this gig though, well, I sort of considered the original Level 42 the real band in all honesty, and in what I do, I work very much in the capacity of a session musician in a sense, playing old music, most of which somebody else played on.

It's my challenge to make it work and feel as good as I can though, and I just concentrate on making sure I'm a strong, reliable and dependable drummer in order to make the show go right. I don't want to play it down at all, but I do see my role for what it is—it's fulfilling and always challenging because I'm not by nature a jazz-funk player, so I have to really work at that. And I do, always, whenever I play and tour with the band. I got a little better at it over the years, slowly but surely.

Gary Husband's Drive Gary Husband's Drive l:r: Julian Siegel, Gary Husband, Michael Janisch, Richard Turner

AAJ: This song, "Heaven In My Hands" on your album has a kind of Miles Davis-like feel to it, and I hear Miles in quite a lot of what you do. You've cited him as a major influence before, and I hear a bit of Miles in your trumpet player Richard Turner. Is that one of the reasons that you liked his playing, because he's somehow reminiscent of Miles?

GH: Actually I didn't hear it, but you know I was taken with Richard Turner on a few different levels. The first I heard of him was on a track where he was effortlessly improvising in 5/4—and very fluently too. I do particularly love people who can feel easy in different time signatures.

I like to be able to play with the time and get into sophisticated rhythmic ideas in music like this, and Richard has a natural flair and a real good handle on rhythm. He doesn't panic and flounder—actually he's too cool to panic and flounder!

Another thing is that he doesn't sound like by-the-book bebop, you know, and there's so much proficiency in a lot of players these days, seemingly being able to easily turn out a lot of bop-type phrases which sound kind of "learned" to me. But that really isn't the deal with Richard; he's kind of got his own approach and I can tell him apart from everybody else already. That was an element immediately attractive to me.

Actually, in the studio, he was really dissatisfied with some of the solos he was playing—you know, little cracked notes here and there, little tuning things or little things where he didn't make the phrase. And I said, "Listen man, I want you to leave those, all those kind of things are full of expression to me. I like hearing that pain. It's an edge that I really heard and loved in Miles."

AAJ: That resonates with me—there are a couple of tracks, "Deux Deux's Blues" and "Take the Coltrane," with trumpet intervention where it sounds at times like there's something on his lips or on the end of his trumpet, which gives a slightly rasping, fragile sound, an unclear sound, and I liked it a lot; it sounds a little original.

GH: I like it too. And back to this little conversation we had, Richard just went home one night and he came back the next day, and on the Ellington-inspired "Take the Coltrane Around," he played a really different kind of solo. And I was really pleased that we'd had that conversation because he'd felt a confidence as a result of it to produce something that wasn't like a full-on, red hot jazz-blues solo, and that was really what I wanted out of him. He found a piece of himself he didn't really know, and I like it that he did.

AAJ: I was speaking recently to the drummer Eddie Locke who was Coleman Hawkins drummer for years right up until Hawkins died. And Eddie, who's pushing 80, now still had things to say, and he was saying that jazz has kind of got lost because a lot of musicians in his opinion are technically very proficient, but there's little feeling, no swing, the original voice is not there. And that maybe echoes a little of what you are saying.

GH: Yeah, I look for that in musicians and when it's not there, I miss it. When somebody plays, I want to hear and sense the musician's life in what they do—what they've been through, what they reach for. I want to hear a bit about their inner complexities as a person. I love to hear a good strong, strong character and distinctive personality in musicians.

AAJ: What's Richard Turner's background?

GH: He's new—too young to have a background! Well, he's from Leeds, from the same shire as me, Yorkshire, and he's making a name for himself in London—not only with his excellent playing but also out of what he's doing getting involved in running jazz clubs and things too. My conviction is we'll all be hearing a lot more about Richard within a few years.

AAJ: Another track on the album, "!0/4," which is a Julian Siegel tune, has a kind of [trumpeter] Don Cherry/Art Ensemble of Chicago vibe to it. He's another very talented musician. What can you tell us about Julian Siegel?

GH: Julian I've know quite a few years now, and we've played together in different contexts. He's a good friend, a sweet, sweet man, and a jewel of a musician. In fact, he started a quartet a few years ago that I was involved in, and I also got to play on his first album.

He's a very soulful musician; he plays just like he is as a man. He has a very kind of quirky thing about him, and again there's no heavy bebop format. He speaks more than he deals in lines sometimes—you know, a little bit like a Wayne Shorter-thing, but in his own way. I love that. He's beautiful on this record.

Gary HusbandAAJ: Wayne Shorter I hear a fair amount in your music, and on this album I hear it in two songs in particular: "The Agony of Ambiguity" and the beautiful "One Prayer" which I like a lot. Is this Wayne Shorter's influence in these tunes?

GH: Actually, there's a little development in "The Agony of Ambiguity" piece that, when I finished it I thought, wow, there's a little bit of Weather Report in that. It's funny, it's never by intention, but I see it afterwards. It's got a little lost feeling to it, a kind of searching, innocent quality to that melody, and I wanted him to play it really childlike.

I remember in a lot of the instructions that I gave him regarding the mood for the piece—everything I was saying, I seemed to be getting nearer and nearer to blurting out, "Oh look, just play it like Wayne Shorter!" (laughs) But I wouldn't have ever done that. Not really.

I must say that each piece is straight out of the Duke Ellington methodology. I love writing for people, and when I choose musicians this carefully... once I've got them, I love writing for them out of a wish to highlight them as the individuals they are. I wanted to write something for all the guys in this band that corresponds with their make-up and personalities, and to try and make them feel at home—and from there give them a hard time. (laughs)

AAJ: The partnership you have with Michael Janisch is absolutely smoking. He gets such great sounds from his bass. What can you tell me about Michael Janisch?

GH: Well, Michael is also a new acquaintance of mine. I met him only a couple of years ago. The first time I heard him I was aware right away of this really robust, in-your-face approach of his. My type of bassist, and he has great time and a great spirit. He just possesses exactly what the bass should be about, particularly in this kind of group. I couldn't wish for a better participation than the one I instantly found with him.

AAJ: The pair of you sounds just great on this album. You strike up a wonderful partnership. Did you guys connect musically from the get-go, or is there a lot of hard graft involved to sound so tight but loose?

GH: Well, that connection was really important to me, and I'm glad you hear it, I'm glad you felt it. In any group—and this group is no exception—the bass and drums have to really be tight. I need a strong bassist, someone confident and who has great conviction. I don't really believe you can teach those qualities, really. I think you basically have it or you don't.

Also, it's just about the chemistry too, and how compatible someone's feeling of pulse is with your own. As long as someone's strong in these areas though, I'm always going to be able to play with them. Michael's got it all in abundance, and in him I got the guy I was looking for in this group. It's just a great feeling of instinctive trust, assurance and solidity between us, in spite of the fact we've still only played a handful of times.


On Drums

AAJ: You play beautifully yet within yourself. How difficult is it in a dynamic band like this to rein yourself in?

GH: I don't try to rein in anything, really; I like to go to the edge. I feel good there. And that's not a feeling expressed in terms of wild and furious playing. For me it exists in the most understated things, just the same. I try to play as eloquently as I can and with beauty and poetry, but also of course as a constant reaction to everything that's going with the other musicians and from the sound of all of us together.

We all push and pull with each other well—one minute someone's a protagonist, the next we're interacting or being more collectively conversational. And I think all this kind of improvisational balance is reached just through the compatibility between the personalities—the trust and real inner pursuance within each of us. And Richard, Julian and Michael all have those qualities.

For me, I just live it. Every note is important, and I strive harder and harder to make just the best music that I can. For a drummer to be in tune with those principals just as much as any linear or harmonic instrumentalist, I think, is the very healthiest thing anyway.

AAJ: Your drumming on Hotwired is very inventive and driving, but it in no way dominates proceedings. It is very sympathetic to the requirements of the music. Is this something that you set out to achieve at the beginning?

GH: Yep, very much so. The drums are about being inventive, being supportive and inspirational, and raising some good heat when the time comes too. But the drums are also totally as much a musical participant as anything else, and they should always be played that way.

In this setting particularly, and this setting for me incidentally is not new. I've had a lot of input in the bebop kind of realms and so called "straight-ahead" jazz playing with a lot of different people over the years, even though it may be a shock for some people to hear me in this kind of context.

I also feel very much at home on a smaller-based jazz kit too. In fact the first times [guitarist] Allan Holdsworth and I played, I was on a pretty small kit. Beyond that, it's just all just about the music—the conversational and interplay aspects, the feeling of it, and how we can get to make some meaningful and spontaneous poetry together.

That's totally my main concern and quest, and was absolutely what this group was about from the beginning. And I'm really happy in the fact that Hotwired, our album, really highlights that in a very nice way. The drumming I almost don't even hear in drumming terms. And you know, when that happens, I feel I'm really succeeding a lot more at being the kind of drummer I always aspire to be.

Gary Husband

AAJ: David Gilmour, guitarist with Pink Floyd, once said that no matter what guitar he held in his hands, he could always get his sound out of it. How much does your own sound depend on the equipment you have at your disposal, and how much of your sound is down to playing style?

GH: I think Dave's bang-on in that comment. I know this is me saying this, but if I revisit the recent album I did with [guitarist] Robin Trower and [bassist] Jack Bruce Seven Moons (V-12 Records, 2008), a few of the things I did with Holdsworth, or a big band session, or even some of the stuff I did with the Level 42 group, I think it's actually quite evident it's the same guy. I think it's evident anyway.

Another story is of an afternoon jam session a few years ago in Ronnie Scott's club in London once with [drummer] Dave Weckl and both kits were onstage as I was playing with guitarist Jim Mullen supporting his group this particular week. Anyway, at one stage we switched kits, and he got on mine and I got on his—two very differently tuned set-ups. And Dave sounded just like Dave, even on my little cranked up sounding jazz kit, and you know I don't seem to ever bring about a different sound characteristic no matter whatever kit or whoever's kit I might play.

I'll get a rental kit, right out of the boxes, and I'll always get this sound. As far as I feel, it's really like that with all instrumentalists. For drummers it's everything you've been through as a player and everything your technique has been adapted to in the past.

My old big band stuff is in there—it's in the clarity of the way I hit and way I guess I formed, but more significant than anything else. And as Allan Holdsworth says, the sound's just in your hands. It's an amazing thing though, isn't it?

I find all this akin to the fact you would instantly recognize the certain sonic characteristic of a person you know whose speaking voice is instantly recognizable—instantly, out of the multitudes of speaking voices you may have heard over the last many weeks or months in your life.

It's not just the sonority, it's the whole nuance and "music" of the way one person in particular will articulate something. And it really is just unique and that distinctive. Incredible, eh?

AAJ: Absolutely. The sound of the music, and I'm talking about the quality of the recording, is also really great. Listening for example to "Deux Deux's Blues," I thought how up in the mix everything is. You must be pretty happy with the way this has turned out sound-wise?

GH: Oh, I am. I was lucky. I think I made some good decisions as to where and how we recorded it, and I should say it all really worked out for the best. And it was also at a studio not even too far away from where I live. This guy has got a lot of vintage microphones and a lot of nice warm tube equipment, so the recording had quite a ... I think you picked up on it—a very kind of analogy presence to it which was ideal for this kind of music and this album, and I am really happy with it. It's punchy and warm and ideal for what we set out to do—really perfect for this band and this music.

AAJ: Who is this guy you mentioned?

GH: Philip Bagenel, and he's just great. He's been in the business for a long, long time, in a central London studio that he runs with all these massive overheads. But he just works and works, and manages to get by okay. He's got a bit of a history to him too, in that he used to work at a place called the Gaslight in New York and actually did out-front sound for Weather Report and Mahavishnu Orchestra when they first emerged, on their very first concerts. So he has been around.

AAJ: You're bringing this out on Abstract Logix?

GH: Yes, and Souvik [Dutta] is a good friend, great spirit, completely on the level, and he's totally in the business for and towards the music and to the musicians, which is rather wonderful and very rare to find. So I'm very proud to have this record released by Abstract Logix.

He's always been very interested and supportive of ideas I had, and of course he now works for [guitarist] John McLaughlin so there's also another tie there too. He's a beautiful, beautiful guy, and I've been excited about the way he wants to work with me on this. And it's really the first time I have ever had so much support from any kind of label.



AAJ: In the song "Take 5" there's, for me, a hint of a motif of "In a Silent Way." And I hear very clearly the same motif, I think it's in the title track of "The Things I See," your piano tribute to the music of Allan Holdsworth. Is this intentional or just one of those things that makes its way there by happenstance?

GH: You are bang on the money. Yeah, you're right, it is straight out of "In a Silent Way." And for the life of me, I don't know where that came from, on either occasion. It just came in. Instinct just made me quote it or something. Funny.

AAJ: It's a beautiful motif.

Gaary HusbandGH: It is beautiful, and at John McLaughlin's sound checks, we were always going into it. There's something really hypnotic about it. Ah, that's just Miles though, isn't it? Some of those bass lines he came up with too. Just fantastic.

AAJ: I remember in an interview not that long ago Herbie Hancock saying how he hears Kind of Blue (Columbia, 1959) everywhere, which is true, but I hear In a Silent Way (Columbia, 1969) everywhere, in so many musicians and so much diverse music. Is that your experience as well?

GH: Absolutely, it's a pivotal and seminal Miles album, and testament to one of his incredible turns. Those albums are just so... well, the world knows it, the world of musicians anyway, how important those records are. For me, In a Silent Way and Jack Johnson (Columbia, 1970) are desert island discs. Period.

AAJ: A tune I love on the album is "Angels Over City Square." With this cracking energy, it also has some free jazz and a slightly mystical element. And listening also to Complete Diary of a Plastic Box, mystical impressionism seems to be a presence in your music, which to me ties in with "In a Silent Way." And I think you could write a very good soundtrack to a movie. Would that appeal at all?

GH: It's been a long ambition to do that, Ian. Although my music is not set to imagery, it evokes imagery inside of me and it's great when other people pick up on it. That's all I ever wanted to do anyway: produce music that can bring up things inside people.

AAJ: To me this album Hotwired sounds a bit like a soundtrack to a modern-day urban thriller. I mean, it has all the moods, the suspense, energy, mysticism and edge.

GH: Ha! I'm delighted to hear that because that's exactly how I feel about it, and also it really ties back to when I was very young studying classical piano and, as my mum reminds me, I used to go up to the little room in our house where the piano was, and I would just turn the light out and improvise very sparsely for a long while, just looking to stir something in me.

I realized later it was very similar to what [composer] Thomas Newman had suddenly emerged with on this "American Beauty" soundtrack. And people have been copying him to death since he came out with it—funny little quiet suspended triads hanging there, with so much tension to them. Everyone's been doing that on the TV ever since, shamelessly, but the first time I heard that soundtrack, I thought, God, that sounds like me. Peculiar experience.


Three Yorkshiremen

AAJ: You have firmly established yourself as a pianist with your two tribute albums, your interpretations of music inspired by Allan Holdsworth and John McLaughlin. It's really a tale of three Yorkshire men isn't it?

GH: Yeah! It is, I guess. A tale of three Yorkshire men, I like that. (laughs)

AAJ: What was your first encounter with McLaughlin's music? Was it the Mahavishnu Orchestra?

GH: Yes, it was, and my introduction to the Mahavishnu's music was a real testament to my dad and what kind of man he was—a very benevolent spirit towards me musically, but also a great musician himself. He used to work in music for television—in fact, I used to do a lot of the music for him too, but he couldn't enter me because at that time I couldn't register my name as a composer since seemingly I was too young.

AAJ: Presumably he gave you pocket money for it, no?

GH: Yeah, he did. He actually gave me so much. I never got the chance to tell him how much he gave me.

AAJ: Beats doing the paper round for pocket money.

GH: Yeah, absolutely. (laughs) Well, every time he had one of the big TV sessions, there was a sizeable band coming from London, and he would be checking them out on my behalf saying, "What should my son be listening to?" And one brought up for me a cassette of Head Hunters (Columbia, 1973) and I also had a Tony Williams Lifetime compilation, but on another one of these occasions, someone brought an album called Birds of Fire (Columbia, 1973) and my dad was advised I should be getting into that.

Gary Husband/John McLaughlin/The 4th Dimension John McLaughlin and The 4th Dimension l:r: Mark Mondesir, Hadrien Feraud, John McLaughlin, Gary Husband

He dutifully brings this album home, and since I always wanted my father's approval of the music, I said, "Oh great, but do you like it?" and he said, "No, but just go upstairs and play it." (laughs) It's a story which really encompasses the selflessness and wisdom of my dad, that he could see right past his own taste barrier—and of course the music just captivated me right away. The thing was, I was going around thinking this was somehow just modern commonplace music. My contemporaries thought differently. (laughs)

AAJ: John McLaughlin has described how strange it was to be sitting in his room as a kid listening to Miles Davis, and then a few short years later he was playing with him. The same could be said for you. How did you end up playing with him?

GH: I did spend a good few years going to gigs; I was just too young to have seen the Mahavishnu Orchestra. I think the first thing I saw of his was Shakti in 1976, which was perfectly good enough. And then I saw the One Truth Band, and on each of these occasions I would always make it my business to stalk him a bit, give him update, a cassette or anything I could to get an impression out of him, and on a couple of occasions later, he actually offered me a slot.

I remember, it was in the mid '80s I went to hear him—I think Tommy Campbell was playing drums with him at the time—and I said, "I want to play drums with you." I had balls in those days. (laughs) I took him a tape recorder with earphones and said, "John, please listen to this." And I played him a drum solo I had just done with Allan Holdsworth from a piece called "Metal Fatigue" that I was kind of proud of it at the time. As I remember he was playing a pinball game as he was listening, but I think it was actually going in, bit by bit.

Shortly after that, he said, "Well, I do have a second keyboard slot open at the moment." And I said, "Nah, I want to play drums." (laughs) I was insane enough to turn it down. Some years later, I was on tour with Billy Cobham and he asked me to play on the first track of an album called The Promise, (Verve, 1996) one that features him and [guitarist] Jeff Beck

I was really trying to make it happen, but it just turned out to be impossible in the end. I missed it. It was really third time lucky, and this really came together at a good time as, really, I can be of much better assistance to him now as a musician. So it's all for the best.

AAJ: I think that Industrial Zen (Verve, 2006) and Floating Point (Abstract Logix, 2008) are two of the best albums he's ever recorded. What was it like to work with McLaughlin on Industrial Zen?

GH: Just, just great—I can't put it any other way. He is one of the most generous people, in all respects, artistically, in terms of your input, fiscally, and just totally supportive and straight up as a man. There's a big challenge in playing for somebody like that for me, automatically, but to have somebody be that straight up with you—I mean, if he doesn't like what you're doing, he'll let you know.

In general it's very difficult for me to think of anything that isn't completely inspirational about that man. He has really helped me too, and I am absolutely overjoyed to be working with him now—I mean, I would sweep that guy's floors.

AAJ: What was the audience reaction like in America to the Fourth Dimension concerts? I think I'm right in saying that it was the first time McLaughlin had played there with an electric lineup for ten years or so. Is that right?

GH: It was good. It was very, very good. I think. You're right though, it had been quite a while since John had toured with an electric band. The only real big shame about that tour was that I was in near agony with three lower-back prolapsed discs and could hardly even stand up or walk straight through the whole tour.

I was taking so many painkillers and mind-altering anti-inflammatory drugs, and it didn't lend itself in the least to what I was trying to do onstage, but I just had to do the best job I could. So it wasn't the ideal situation, on that US tour, at all. But I think the reaction to the tour was really good though—that and the Industrial Zen album, and everybody was very excited about a new electric project from him. The spring and summer tours that followed, in Europe, were tons better.

Gary HusbandAAJ: Being on the road with John McLaughlin, he must have plenty of interesting tales. After all, his career has been nothing short of remarkable. The temptation must be to pester him all the time for stories about Miles and Tony Williams, the Mahavishnu Orchestra and Shakti. Does he tell a good tale?

GH: Yeah, he tells a good tale, and holds court very well, all of which I just lap up—quite a few great Miles stories. We played quite a bit of music on the bus, just about everything—bags of John Coltrane, obviously, quite a lot of Miles. But the main bus tape of the American tour was Sinatra at the Sands (Reprise Records, 1966). He just loves Sinatra, as I always did too. It was all no surprise to hear that his musical enjoyment and his palette is as wide as it is. It's a universal thing for him, music. Life is.

AAJ: I love your description on the sleeve of your solo piano album to describe McLaughlin—elegance, conviction and swagger. I thought that was a perfect combination of adjectives to describe him.

GH: I like the swagger adjective—and pretty much when I thought of Elvin Jones too, he had a lot of swagger. Perhaps Elvin epitomized it.

AAJ: You've mentioned already McLaughlin's wide musical palette, but you yourself don't really fit into one box. The two of you are kindred spirits in that sense.

GH: I really feel that, Ian, and I always kind of felt that. Maybe it's unconsciously one of the reasons I was very drawn to what I felt John was about in the first place, and it's the fact I feel very much at home with people who are very open. There's so much broadness to John I just haven't found in a lot of musicians. The term universal really seems to apply to him, yet I can hear something in him that is always like one message—always such a clear, unconfused message.

Actually I really worked hard to try to define my feelings about him in those notes for the A Meeting Of Spirits album. And with the help of my darling at home, whose literary skills are excellent, we managed something I was really happy with in the end.


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