Husband scores a winner with his band of all-stars

Husband scores a winner with his band of all-stars

March 8, 2004


Gary Husband, Queen Elizabeth Hall

IT is an exciting moment when a musician comes of age. Gary Husband, a
respected pianist and drummer, has long been one of London’s most
versatile players, but one who also hankered to write.

Handed a five-city British tour as leader of a handpicked US
supergroup, he seized his chance. His superb scores – an engrossing
series of post-Zawinul, electric-Miles landscapes, deliberately devoid
of saxophones or guitars – made Friday’s concert a revelation.

It opened with sound portraits of Burt Bacharach, Bjork and John
McLaughlin, three musicians whose individualism Husband admires. His
suitably original orchestrations, packed with strong themes and
brooding synth chords, seemed to double the size of a septet whose
unusual front line (trumpeter Randy Brecker, trombonist Elliot Mason
and electric violinist Jerry Goodman) blended magnificently.

When not rising to conduct ensemble sections, Husband spend most of
his time at the drums, driving the tempos along with massive authority
and leaving most keyboard solos unselfishly to synthman Jim
Beard. Even during quieter passages, the rhythm team of Husband,
Beard, alert Fender-bassist Matthew Garrison and the amazing Armenian
percussionist Arto Tuncboyaciyan kept the atmosphere tingling with
creative possibilities.

Second-half highlights included Stone Souls, a suite featuring Arto’s
effective voice-effects and flying hands – “Try to resist him,”
quipped the leader – the British-born Mason’s prowess on the difficult
bass-trumpet, and the all-round expertise of Goodman and Brecker.

The Contemporary Music Network, which organised this tour, and BBC
Radio 3, who commissioned the music, can also take a bow.

It is one thing to hand taxpayers’ money to established stars, quite
another to risk it on an artist of untapped potential. Husband has
repaid that faith. The quality of his writing, and his all-stars’
inspired response to it, produced a performance that ranks among the
year’s best.