Album reviews

The Trackers ft. Gary Husband & Alf Terje Hana – ‘Vaudeville 8:45’

The Trackers ft. Gary Husband & Alf Terje Hana – Vaudeville 8:45
(Abstract Logix Records. Album review by Rob Mallows)

Gary Husband and who? I asked. Drum and keyboard polymath Husband’s music is familiar ground for many UK jazz fans, and he’s been one of my favourites of the last two decades

In comparison, Norwegian guitarist Alf Terje Hana is jazz terra incognita to me. As the accompanying press release politely puts it, he’s “a comparatively under-the-radar musician.”

Yet, the two have joined forces. Hana, according to Husband, had a sound that was perfect for this project, conceived after the loss of his close friend Allan Holdsworth. 

Having listened to much of Husbands output, from his time with Level 42 and John McLaughlin to his recent slew of eponymous albums, I trusted his judgement. Correctly, it turned out.

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So, what’s the result of this meeting of minds?

Trackers is a trio. In fact, many trios.

On Vaudeville 8:45, Husband on drums and keyboards and Hana on guitar are joined by a conveyor belt of some of the great electric bass artists of our time, including Etienne Mbappé, Mark King (former Husband bandmate in Level 42, of course), Kevin Scott, Jimmy Johnson and Jimmy Haslip.

That’s one of the secrets to this album (as was the case with Husband’s earlier albums, Dirty & Beautiful Volumes 1 and 2).

Each brings something unique to the songs they play on. The album is, as Forrest Gump says, like a box of chocolates: the bass textures on offer create a different taste sensation with each mouthful.

Opener Two Foxes is a sheer vertical drop of an opener: heavy distortion and effects on Hana’s guitar hint at one thing, but then it morphs into a cleaner sound as the track calms down the lets rip as Hana picks out the heaviest of licks.

All the while, Husband is focusing on the high hat and ride cymbals alternately and Mbappé offers a restrained accompaniment. It’s a statement of intent track. And the intent is to rock out some choice cuts of fusion. I couldn’t wait to hear the rest of the album.

The Drowning drops down a gear as Johnson takes over the bass amp. The quality of Husband’s drumming shines through in every bar here, with cymbal work that just sparkles. 

Hana’s guitar is – like Husband’s former guitar brother Holdsworth – something of an acquired taste and it’s often overly shrill, but it’s certainly got a heft to it, as heard on third track Nisco (ft. Øyvind Grong), where the guitar sounds dystopian and random over the solid bass and drum platform provided by Grong and Husband. A sweet and sour gobstopper of a cut.

Track after track of avant-garde jazz fusion fall out of the speakers.

The Middle Distance, with Yellowjackets’ Haslip on four-string duty, has a funkier groove, Hana’s chiming arpeggios constantly moving the sound forward. 

Wide Awake Running starts off fairly insipid, and one could be forgiven for skipping forward. But then the familiar slap and pull of Mark King’s bass jumps out and the track redeems itself. It’s a tour de force with fantastic playing by all three musicians. Outstanding stuff.

Final track of the nine on offer, Living Time, features Pink Floyd bassist Guy Pratt. It’s a hybrid: rock, fusion, jazz (it’s based on a riff by George Russell) all melded together; the track drives with the abandon of a driver who knows he’s over the speed limit but doesn’t care. And the bass drumming on Husband’s solo? Just, wow!

Gary Husband has taken an idea dreamed up while waiting for a plane and, with the help of his fellow musical prospector Hana, struck musical gold. 

A super album brilliantly executed, it bears repeated listens. Vaudeville 8:45 offers an assortment of riches and is worth tracking down.

LINK: Vaudeville 8:45 on Bandcamp

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