For some, recruiting an all-star cast means nothing more than a budget to support it, but in the case of Gary Husband's Dirty & Beautiful Volume 1, it reflects the many friendships the keyboardist/drummer has built over the years—all clearly happy to help deliver the album that should, by all rights, put him more squarely on the map as a leader in his own right. John McLaughlin, Allan Holdsworth, Robin Trower, Level 42...all well-known names in jazz and rock/pop circles; and yet, Husband has never managed the same cachet. Since focusing on making his keyboard work an equal to the reputation he's built as a powerhouse drummer, through albums including his wonderful solo piano tributes to Holdsworth and McLaughlin—The Things I See (Angel Air, 2004), and A Meeting of Spirits (Alternity, 2006)—as well as his ensemble-driven Aspire (Jazzizt, 2004)—Husband has, however, been achieving greater visibility, most recently in McLaughlin's 4th Dimension, whose To The One (Abstract Logix, 2010) is the overdue studio debut of a group that's been impressing audiences on the road since 2007.
If for nothing else—and there are plenty of other reasons, to be sure—Dirty & Beautiful is notable as the album that reunites McLaughlin with Mahavishnu Orchestra keyboardist Jan Hammer and violinist Jerry Goodman. That the three don't actually play together becomes irrelevant, as each turns in a stunning performance, from Hammer's guitaristic synth work on Holdsworth's potent opener, "Leave 'Em On," a longtime live staple for the guitarist's trio with Husband and bassist Jimmy Johnson, to McLaughlin's extended fireworks on Husband's "Dreams in Blue," the album's longest track at over ten minutes that, in addition to Husband's effervescent kit work, features a set-defining piano solo. Goodman's equally incendiary performance on the greasier "Between the Sheets of Music" also comes close to being an early set-stealer; an old Hammer tune on which the keyboardist doesn't play, leaving it to Goodman, Husband, Holdsworth and Johnson. It's been decades since the first Mahavishnu Orchestra imploded, but every one of these players has never sounded better.
Elsewhere, Husband engages in some bluesy, Jimi Hendrix-ian psychedelic jamming on a retro look at Miles Davis' riff-based "Yesternow," courtesy of Trower, while ex-Genesis guitarist Steve Hackett turns in a surprisingly fusion-esque performance on drummer's laidback "Moon Song," and Level 42 bassist Mark King brings out the funk on the closing "Alverstone Jam."
Throughout, Husband is a multiple threat: a drummer capable of laying a meaty groove while, at the same time, ratcheting up the energy level with his interpretive interaction; a keyboardist who delivers finely honed melodism as much as expansively textured landscapes; and a broad-reaching writer, from the Joe Zawinul-esque "Bedford Falls" to the brooding "Boulevard Baloneyo," an alternate version of which is included as a bonus track on the Japanese edition. The debut of Husband's post-bop Drive, on Hotwired (Abstract Logix, 2009), may have been tragically overlooked, but the all-star cast and fusion leanings of Dirty & Beautiful Volume 1 should push Husband up into radar range, and hopefully lead to the second volume promised by its title.
Over the course of a remarkable, still-unfolding career, Gary Husband has defined himself as the ultimate musician's musician: a fiery, perceptive presence who elevates every scenario -from the tightly arranged to pure, open-ended improvisation. Whether focusing on his intricate, propulsive drumming or unleashing his nimble, harmonically astute keyboard abilities, Husband never fails to make his presence felt, while always remaining sympathetic to his fellow musicians and to the composition at hand. His vast range of experience allows him to balance the technical and the intuitive with rare grace, earning him the opportunity to perform and record alongside such maverick, inventive talents as John McLaughlin, Jeff Beck, Allan Holdsworth, Jack Bruce, Mike Stern, Robin Trower, Billy Cobham, Gary Moore, Level 42, Andy Summers, and many, many more.
In addition to his prolific career as a sideman, the British-born Husband has recorded seven of his own albums, featuring his multi-instrumental, compositional, and bandleading skills in an array of contexts. He is now poised to release his most ambitious project yet, the two-volume Dirty & Beautiful, volume one of which is to be made available by Abstract Logix on November 16, 2010, with volume two to follow in Spring of 2011. A visionary exercise years in the making, recorded in studios around the world, Dirty & Beautiful Volume One is a riveting showcase for the many gleaming facets of Husband's musical imagination, featuring an enviable cast of supporting musicians, among them John McLaughlin, Allan Holdsworth, Robin Trower, Steve Hackett (Genesis), Jerry Goodman (Mahavishnu Orchestra), Jimmy Herring (Widespread Panic, the Dead, Allman Brothers Band), Jan Hammer (Mahavishnu Orchestra and Miami Vice TV series soundtrack), Mark King (Level 42), and more.
"I feel this album to be rich, full of extremes, and passionate," Husband reflects. "It's not at all my first album, but it feels a little like a debut album, in that it heralds a return to my jazz/rock roots." The album's title hints at the unique co-existence that defines his music: for all its sophistication, technique, and facility, there is an underlying grit and intensity that somehow only enhances the luminous beauty at the core of these performances. "If I think about what it actually is to play -what the feeling is in what I chase -there's a quest for a profound beauty there, certainly. But it can't really be whole, to me, without the grunge, and the dirt. Like picking a fresh raspberry in the woods and eating it."
Despite its kaleidoscopic range of styles, textures, and grooves -not to mention the various globe-spanning locales in which it was recorded -this first instalment of Dirty & Beautiful is powerfully coherent, thanks to both the consistent quality of its contributors and to Husband's careful curatorial instinct. "As with any album I make," he explains, "I concerned myself directly with the overall curve of the record -the journey it presents, how it travels from track to track, and the overall coherency. But, as I strongly hoped for since the beginning, and in spite of the fact there are a lot of artists from very different realms here, there is a definite, very particular kind of coherency going on through the several different lineups just doing what we do together -everything and everyone towards the same cause. The whole thing plays as I'd hoped -as one message, with everyone concerned conveying the same level of commitment, energy and heart from track to track through their performances. After all, the artists involved here are all so great, a lot of factors kind of end up taking care of themselves anyway!"
From Robin Trower's churning, wailing post-Hendrix guitar on the brief visit to Miles Davis's "Yesternow", to Steve Hackett's stirring interpretation of the wistful "Moon Song" through to Mark King's slithering bass on the refracted second-line funk of the closing "Alverstone Jam," Dirty & Beautiful Volume One is an explosive, evocative celebration of the of the mutual respect between Husband and his collaborators, and instantly heightens the anticipation for the second volume. "It's predominantly a record just about playing the kind of material I feel like playing right now with people, friends, and musical colleagues that I feel like playing with," Husband concludes. "In a big way, it also documents my perpetual activity as a touring musician. This album is what my diary frequently looks like and it portrays very much the fulfilment I experience playing with all of these various people on a pretty consistent basis, in the many and various musical worlds and situations that I do or have done. It's got my stamp on it, but we all speak and tune in to basically the same common language. Friendship binds it. Respect and harmony are also elements that bind it. There is the fact that I know most of these gentlemen extremely well and feel a deeply special closeness and bond with them as individuals and musicians. That binds it in an ultimate way for me."
1. Leave 'Em On (4:32)
2. Bedford Falls (3:20)
3. Between the Sheets of Music (3:32)
4. Yesternow - Preview (0:57)
5. Afterglow (2:15)
6. Dreams in Blue (10:12)
7. Ternberg Jam (3:01)
8. Moon Song (4:32)
9. Swell (0:45)
10. The Maverick (4:53)
11. Boulevard Baloneyo (7:42)
12. Alverstone Jam (5:22)
Total Time: 51:03
Line-up / Musicians
- Allan Holdsworth / guitar (track 1,3,11)
- Jan Hammer / keyboards (track 1)
- Jimmy Johnson / bass (track 1,3,6,7,11)
- Gary Husband / drums, keyboards
- Laurence Cottle / bass (track 2,4,8)
- Jerry Goodman / violin
- Robin Trower / guitar (track 4)
- John McLaughlin / guitar (track 6)
- Steve Hacket / guitar (track 8)
- Steve Topping / guitar (track 10)
- Steve Price / bass (track 10)
- Mark King / bass (track 12)