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Ken Husbands Trio: Keepin' it Going

Karl Ackermann By

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When your PhD dissertation targets jazz in French culture, it might not be the most logical hypothesis that you would musically favor funk-fusion. For the northern California-based guitarist Ken Husbands and his trio, the fusion route is based in personal histories within the sub-genre. The results of the players' collective musical journeys are documented on the trio release Keepin' it Going. Bassist Aaron Germain had featured French fusion guitarist Nguyen Le on his imaginative world beat album Chance (Origin Records, 2013) and drummer Otto Huber came up through the versatile Chicago jazz scene. The leader himself cites guitarist John Scofield and Weather Report as influences though Husbands' clearly owns his approach.

Where world music influences are present, they are very subtle on Keepin' it Going. By comparison, the trio's previous recording, Back Up Over (Self-Produced, 2010) included compositions from Cameroon, a native Greek bouzouki and a Bjork cover. The emphasis here is centered on traditional funk and jazz fusion, as the opener "East Coast Groupings" demonstrates. Husbands distorts the electric guitar's natural sound so that, at one point, it approximates a Hammond B3. Similarly, he incorporates electronic buzzing and popping—along with some intricate improvisation—to augment chords on "Lucky Seven."

The shimmering open to the title track leads to a more exotic ambience. An understated African essence comingles with Husbands sophisticated and energetic melodic line. Germain's composition, "Goodbye Eddie" (the only piece not penned by Husbands) is a fast-paced blues and a vehicle for Husbands to demonstrate his dexterity as he weaves through the challenging, multi-layered configuration. Huber gets some spotlight time with interstitial solo trade-offs with the guitarist. "Almost Eleven" breaks ranks with the previous tracks in a flat-out rock approach that would have been at home on Santana's Abraxas (CBS, 1970). Closing out the collection is "But I Don't," a high-energy piece with the slightest hint of Brazilian rhythm.

Keepin' it Going is direct and compact with enough space for Husbands to exhibit his considerable playing and improvising skills. He is careful not put his technical expertise above the continuity of the rhythms and the inventiveness of the arrangements. Keepin' it Going doesn't keep it going for too long—clocking in at well under forty minutes—however given the breakneck pacing of the album, it is sufficient for gaining a sense of Husbands abilities short of burning out from the intensity. With Husbands' obvious potential to incorporate the unexpected, it would be great to see him expand into less predictable spaces his next time out.

Track Listing: East Coast Groupings; Lucky Seven; Keepin' It Going; Goodbye Eddie; Almost Eleven; But I Don't.

Personnel: Ken Husbands: guitar; Aaron Germain: bass; Otto Huber: drums.

Title: Keepin' It Going | Year Released: 2014 | Record Label: First Orbit Sounds

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