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CD Review: Gary Husband Dirty & Beautiful Volume 1

Dirty & Beautiful Volume 1, Gary Husband (Abstract Logix)
(CD review by Rob Mallows)

Gary Husband has thumbed his extensive contact book and brought in twelve top players from the fusion, funk, rock and contemporary jazz worlds. Across twelve tracks, guitarists like John McLaughlin, Allan Holdsworth, Steve Topping and former Genesis player Steve Hackett combine with Husband – doubling up on drums and keyboards and excelling on both – and lock in with bassists Laurence Cottle, Steve Price and Jimmy Johnson; violinist Jerry Goodman adds some electric strings.

Eight of the tracks on this studio album are Husband compositions. In drawing inspiration from many areas – blues rock, seventies-style jazz rock bombast, eighties smooth jazz and straight-ahead funk – he keeps the listener guessing. Shot through this album is variety: tempo, track length, guitar style, keyboard sound, studio setting (six countries) – Husband has gone to great efforts to get something different on each track.

For instance, standout track Boulevard Baloneyo begins with a brooding drum beat which subtly changes and evolves across the track, over which Husband’s haunting keys and Jimmy Johnson’s subtle bass build, with Holdsworth’s ringing chord tones, an eery soundscape suggesting downtown LA at four in the morning.

Bedford Falls starts off with Husband laying down a simple chord pattern with a church organ before he heads into George Duke territory – all trills, runs and bends – with bassist Laurence Cottle providing smashing counterpoint on the low end.

Yesternow- Preview is a Jimi Hendrix-Miles Davis mash-up. It’s only 57 seconds long, but it hints at what might have been had these titans of rock and jazz worked together. Dreams in Blue punches through with John McLaughlin’s instantly recognisable sound overlaid with Husband’s electric piano and some fantastic drumming which covers all the bases of tempo and tone over ten compelling minutes.

Through clever collaborations and a focus on subtlety and rhythmic variety rather than sheer drumming power – and by giving as much reign to his keyboard virtuosity as his skills behind the kit – Husband’s got it spot on. Certainly, it’s a more accessible and straightforward album than his last Drive collaboration which, for all its angularity and tonal innovation, had left me a little cold.

The best thing about this album, however? That phrase Volume 1. It means there’s more to come. I can’t wait- it’s apparently due in the summer. And wouldn’t a touring version be great…?

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