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Gary Husband: Dirty & Beautiful: Vol. I

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Most musical multi-taskers play a variety of similar instruments: Branford Marsalis an array of saxophones; Alex Acuña drums and percussion; John Medeski piano and organ. Gary Husband, on the other hand, went from being one of the great drummers with guitarist Allan Holdsworth to mimicking Jan Hammer’s parts as the keyboardist on Billy Cobham’s 30th anniversary Spectrum tour. On his latest CD, Dirty & Beautiful, the versatile Brit features both Holdsworth and Hammer plus a cast of other fusion luminaries.

If anything, the guest list doesn’t live up to its collaborative potential. Sure, it’s the first project that Holdsworth and fellow British guitar icon John McLaughlin have both appeared on, yet they don’t play anything together. It’s also the first post-Mahavishnu Orchestra recording featuring alums McLaughlin, Hammer and violinist Jerry Goodman, yet they also play on separate tracks. The whole project has a feeling of isolation, beginning with the dreamy opener “Leave ‘Em On” (with Holdsworth, Hammer, Husband and bassist Jimmy Johnson) and following “Bedford Falls” (with Husband, on keyboards and drums, dueting with bassist Laurence Cottle).

The closest thing to a Mahavishnu reunion comes on “Between the Sheets of Music,” featuring the roaring Goodman on a co-composition by Hammer and Anthony Smith. The disc improves midway through with “Dreams in Blue,” featuring McLaughlin’s dramatic guitar runs, Johnson’s fluid bass and Husband doubling on drums and keys. The eerie “Boulevard Baloneyo” (with Holdsworth and Johnson) and funky, closing “Alverstone Jam” (a duet with bassist Mark King of Level 42, a band Husband was once a part of) prove too little, too late. Husband is part of McLaughlin’s 4th Dimension, the cohesive quartet that recorded one of the best CDs of 2010 in To the One. The multi-instrumentalist’s prior release, 2009’s Hotwired, was also a study in quartet chemistry, not a collection of disconnected all-star jams.