San Francisco Bay area guitarist Ken Husbands plays with a clean tone and a lot of funk, and his third album Keepin’ It Going — the second with his trio — does just what the name says. A sharp, drum-tight unit featuring Otto Huber behind the kit and Aaron Germain on electric bass, Husbands devises somewhat involved compositions and then he and his band perform them with the same effortless energy typically applied to straightforward, two-chord funk numbers.
That’s not at all surprising, given Husbands diverse background playing in a funk cover band in Boston, studying under fusion guitar master Bruce Bartlett and then studying abroad in France, acquiring a doctorate degree along the way. He’s worked with various straight jazz groups since arriving in Oakland in ’05 and eventually set out to make his own mark with this trio about five years ago.
Out of this new album’s set of six originals, “East Coast Groupings” is Husbands’ most direct link back to his funk cover band days, a no-nonsense number that right off shows the oneness of this combo, and Husbands ability to hold down both the rhythm and lead guitar parts at once.
We made a big deal about Germain’s fusion release last year, Chance, a bassist whose got more chops than a karate black belt master, and Husbands generously shares the lead parts with him. Germain also gets plenty of solo spots, like the jiggy one he leaves behind on “Lucky Seven.” That song, by the way, bounces around three or four tempos that the band ties together without getting all tangled up in its complexities.
On “Goodbye Eddie,” Germain is channeling Jaco and then evoking Jimmy Haslip on “Almost Eleven.” His high register lines form pretty harmonic lead lines for “Keepin’ It Going” and Husbands counters with polished jazz phrasing. The aforementioned “Almost Eleven” finds the guitarist doing a one-eighty and unleashing a stinging rock-star type solo. A breezy bossa nova called “But I Didn’t” ends the whole thing, where Husbands’ floating expressions and Germain’s upper end bass solo are highlights.
Covering a wide expanse of moods but maintaining the same airy feeling, Keepin’ It Going is trio date that has a little something for most tastes of jazz wrapped into a tidy, funky little trio.