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Gary Husband: A Meeting of Spirits

The subtitle of this album is “Interpretations of the Music of John McLaughlin.” It is a curiosity. Gary Husband has loved McLaughlin’s music since 1971, when he heard the fusion masterpiece, The Inner Mounting Flame. (Fusion peaked early.) Here Husband attempts to translate music mostly written for a maniacal virtuoso electric guitar band-the Mahavishnu Orchestra-into pristine pieces for solo acoustic piano.

Husband has played drums and keyboards in several McLaughlin ensembles. He knows this music well, and sometimes he takes so many harmonic and rhythmic liberties that a tune is unrecognizable as a McLaughlin line. But it is possible to hear Husband isolate the little melodic riff that was always buried within “The Dance of Maya” before the Mahavishnu Orchestra engulfed it in flame. The essence of “Celestial Terrestrial Commuters,” from Birds of Fire, is also audible through Husband’s overdubbed “piano percussion.” But when such pieces are thus denuded and defanged, the musical ideas in play are not sufficient to sustain interest as solo-piano arrangements.

“Lotus Feet” and “Vision Is a Naked Sword” are very short, and more successful because their melodies reward distillation.

You have to admire a project so obviously driven by nothing except stubborn dedication to a quixotic cause.

Originally Published