The Evening Standard (London)
March 1, 2005
GARY HUSBAND’S FORCE MAJEURE
RONNIE SCOTT’S CLUB, W1
THIS is the all-star (and almost all-American) group that roared
triumphantly around Britain on a Contemporary Music Network tour last
March, and if you’re wondering how a nightclub’s PA system could
harness such skull-rattling power, the answer is only just. The legs
of my table were buzzing slightly as Gary Husband, Leeds’s
doublytalented maestro of drums and keyboards, cranked his mighty
ensemble into stadium-sized life.
The overall ambience recalled lateperiod Miles Davis, with Jim
Beard’s brooding synth chords and Randy Brecker’s wah-wah-enhanced
trumpet solos bubbling over Matthew Garrison’s five-string Fender
bass, Husband’s sizzling stickwork and the chattering congaskins of
Armenian percussion wizard Arto Tuncboyacian.
Sharing the front line with Brecker was the vocalised electric-violin
sound of former Mahavishnu Orchestra star Jerry Goodman and Elliot
Mason, equally fluent on slide trombone and valve-articulated
basstrumpet. Husband’s sketches showed how to orchestrate for maximum
impact without saxophones or guitar, but raw power was only part of
the group’s colourful agenda.
Their opening set presented portraits of three original musicians —
Burt Bacharach, Bjvrk and John McLaughlin — and each piece contained
moments of quiet reflection and delicate interplay, as when Goodman’s
violin made feathery embellishments to Beard’s church-organlike drone
or when Husband’s piano exchanged phrases with Tuncboyacian, his
fingers drumming against an enamel bowl, half-filled with water.
It was absorbing music, as wild and unpredictable as the weather,
with the measured simplicity of Christine Tobin’s voice an ideal
contrast opposite. Expertly backed by guitarist Phil Robson’s trio,
she sang with feeling, as ever relishing the saddest ones. Billie
Holiday’s God Bless the Child, was followed by Leonard Cohen’s
similar dirge, Everybody Knows (the Dice is Loaded). But don’t call
the Samaritans. Offstage, she’s the most cheerful, upbeat person you
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