As a label mate of jazz guitarist Hristo Vitchev, Ken Husbands is in fine company. With bassist Aaron Germain and drummer Otto Huber, even finer. As the Ken Husbands Trio, they make sculptures of their music, smooth and chiseled to lifelike appearance. For its sophomore outing, the trio navigates a set of six originals, crisply recorded and played.
With a background in funk and a personal interest in fusion, Husbands harnesses many influences under one umbrella, but articulates them with an economy that is altogether refreshing. “East Coast Groupings” points to the guitarist’s Boston roots, dipping early into a pool of groove. There is here, as throughout the album, a feeling of the open road. Germain’s warped electric bass foils Huber’s pristine timekeeping with a hint of grunge. The drummer’s rhythmic slights of hand further dress the emerging groove of “Lucky Seven” in cathartic clothing. Here the trio works synergistically, Husbands working overtime to maintain a smooth exterior, stoking the flames by means of his stream-of-consciousness style. The title track proceeds along Huber’s skipping trail, while Germain switches to more direct amplification, augmented by a spacy echo effect. Husbands provides a circling backdrop for Germain’s initial forays before taking over the foreground with a non-invasive lyricism.
“Goodbye Eddie,” however, gives us the album’s biggest revelation in German’s less mitigated playing. The only non-Husbands original of the set (this one by way of the bassist’s pen), it evokes a slicker, more classic club vibe. Germain’s fast fingers give virtuosity a melodic sheen in this standout track. “Almost Eleven” returns us to the groove-oriented approach with which the album began and shows the trio at its tightest yet also its most liberated. Even amid all the hot action from the rhythm section here, Husbands manages to light a few fires of his own. Last is “But I Don’t,” another smooth and carefully interlocking ride. Husbands and Germain never cease to reinvent their own wheels along the way, Huber keeping toeing the line and throwing in a hard-edged solo for good measure.
At a mere 39 minutes, Keepin’ It Going might feel like a modest album were it not for the overt invitation of its playing. The band’s hallmark is a genuine desire to keep the listener engaged. This music is packed with ideas and expresses those ideas openly. This isn’t jazz that hits you over the head, but that takes you by the hand and shows you just how wide the world can be.