Gerry Gibbs & Thrasher People – Weather or Not [TrackList follows] – Whaling City Sound WCS 091 (2-CDs) [Distr. by Naxos] 58:12, 61:41 [2/24/17] ****:
A two-for-one deal from drummer Gerry Gibbs.
(Gerry Gibbs – drums, percussion, kalimba glockenspiel, balifones, castanets, mini-Moog synthesizer, mouth drums, harp, conga drums, electronics, voices, clavinet; Alex Collins – Steinway D acoustic piano, Fender Rhodes, Hammond B-3 organ, vocals; Hans Glawischnig – acoustic and electric bass; Kyeshie Gibbs – guest vocals (track 2, CD1))
Most jazz musicians are content to do one thing with each release. Gerry Gibbs has more ambition than most. Gibbs’ latest project is Weather or Not, a double-disc trio venture with Gibbs on drums, percussion, electronics and voices; keyboardist Alex Collins on acoustic piano, Fender Rhodes, Hammond B-3 organ and vocals; and Hans Glawischnig on acoustic and electric bass. The first disc (subtitled The Music of Weather Report) is an hour-long, 12-track tribute to the band co-founded by Wayne Shorter and Joe Zawinul. Disc two (subtitled The Music of Gerry Gibbs; The Life Suite: 1981-2016) is an hour-long, 16-track retrospective of Gibbs’ compositions, penned from 1981 to the present, reimagined by his current trio named Thrasher People.
On CD 1, Gibbs presents interpretations of well-known Weather Report works such as “Teen Town” and “Birdland” but also lesser-known material. Gibbs deliberately shies away from the Weather Report sound. As he states in the liner notes, “Everybody I’ve ever heard trying to do Weather Report tributes plays it in that fusion style, or something close to it. Nobody can play Weather Report music as good as they played it.” Instead, Gibbs focuses on a mostly acoustic piano trio approach (there are touches of Fender Rhodes, however) with swing being the main ingredient. The threesome opens with Jaco Pastorius’ perennial “Teen Town” (from the 1977 Heavy Weather LP). Collins duplicates Shorter and Pastorius’ lines note-for-note on his piano; then Glawischnig steps forward and slows things down a bit for an acoustic bass solo. The music remains at a fast clip during Shorter’s “Palladium” (also from Heavy Weather), featuring Gibbs’ brushwork which is complemented by Glawischnig’s groove-laced bass, while Collins’ doubles on Steinway piano and electric piano. One of the truly beautiful pieces is Zawinul’s melodious ballad, “A Remark You Made,” another gem from the Heavy Weather album. Collins recreates Pastorius’ poignant lines on acoustic piano (and again slips in some understated electric keyboards), while Gibbs and Glawischnig maintain a tender rhythmic conversation. There are two numbers from 1976’s Black Market record. The title track is done at breakneck tempo and is pure and outright fusion, where Collins’ demonstrates his acoustic piano talent, then moves to Fender Rhodes to add a dash of modernity; some electronics effects are shuttered into the mix; Collins spices the arrangement with scatting vocalizations; and Glawischnig switches to electric bass, utilizing an electric guitar-like tone. On Shorter’s “Elegant People,” the trio build a soulful-tinted vibe, then turn to a solidly swinging section. The arrangement has a push-and-pull treatment, veering from acoustic elements to electronic ones, and has a stop-start-stop rhythmic flux. Gibbs’ and his group close with two more memorable cuts. Zawinul’s famous “Birdland” (yet another notable composition from Heavy Weather) has a shuffle swing methodology tindered by Glawischnig’s walking bass plus piano, drums and B-3 organ solos. Thrasher People conclude CD 1 with Zawinul’s “Directions,” initially done by Miles Davis’ live sextet in 1970 and subsequently recorded for Weather Report’s 1972 LP, I Sing the Body Electric. It is a tour-de-force where Collins provides a sweltering B-3 organ solo, and Gibbs churns out a lengthy drum improvisation which showcases his rhythmic and melodic mannerisms.
While CD 1 has a thematic and musical framework which grounds the proceedings, CD 2 is wildly varied and deliberately so. Gibbs explains, “Instead of creating one musical concept, I wanted it to sound like 16 trios, so that’s why the music was so eclectic.” Gibbs leads his trio through a musical course which ranges from flamenco to gospel, Latin jazz to funk, rhythm and blues to swing, calypso and more. One common component is that much of the music is sparked by other musicians. The collection commences with the bubbly and Latin-tinged “Maestro Ron,” an ode to friend, collaborator and famed bassist Ron Carter. That’s followed by the funky and soulful “Just Glad to be Anywhere,” a Chick Corea homage written in 2000 which gets its debut on Weather or Not. Gibbs employs overdubs to generate a one-man percussion ensemble, while Collins uses both electric piano and acoustic piano (often at the same time). Other musicians stimulated some other numbers. The invigorating and rapid acoustic/electric “We Are So Free” (from 2004) honors pianist McCoy Tyner. The cool-down “The ‘70s Song” (from 2001) bequeaths credit and respect to keyboardist/singer Patrice Rushen, whom Gibbs has performed with in the past. Gibbs says “I recorded it once as a really super-fast fusion song with wah-wah pedals and Moog synthesizers. And I always wanted to record it really slow, so here it is.” Gibbs’ oldest creation is the zooming “Paul & Sid’s Blues,” which Gibbs wrote in the 11th grade, for Gibb’s high school band director and his son. This swinger holds up well and sounds as fresh as Gibbs’ later material. The expeditious “It’s a Good Day” has a Midwest feel to it and is dedicated to guitarist John Abercrombie. There is delightful trio interplay during “It’s a Good Day” and Glawischnig contributes a lyrical bass solo. Another dedication comes in the form of the potent portrayal “Kojak,” another new Gibbs original. This sprightly and upbeat tune was inspired by actor Telly Savalas, who depicted the bristly, bald 1970s-era TV show detective. Gibbs and Thrasher People conclude with the cinematic “When I Close My Eyes (and Go to a Place I Have Never Been Before),” a 2005 cut which has a Nino Rota-esque texture, with a circling and roundabout arrangement which presents a classically-tinged Collins’ solo on Steinway acoustic piano. Gibbs has issued several distinguished or prominent albums such as 2010’s The Electric Thrasher Orchestra Play the Music of Miles Davis (‘67-‘75) and 2013’s Grammy-nominated Thrasher Dream Trio. The two-hour, 28-track Weather or Not is another winner and exceptionally displays Gibbs’ determination, drive and adroitness.
CD 1 (The Music of Weather Report):
Young and Fine
A Remark You Made
Scarlett Woman/Boogie Woogie Waltz
CD 2 (The Music of Gerry Gibbs; The Life Suite: 1981-2016):
Just Glad to be Anywhere
Joaquin and Pinky
We Are So Free
The 70s Song/aka Patrice Rushen
Only in Dreams
Paul & Sid’s Blues
I’m Simply Waiting
When I Close My Eyes
The Caribbean Song; Her Last Words (R.I.P.)
It’s a Good Day
When I Close My Eyes (and Go to a Place I Have Never Been Before)