Michael Gibbs and the NDR Bigband – Back In The Days – Cuneiform Records Rune 322, 65:38 ****:
Michael Gibbs arranger, composer, and trombonist, may not be a name that resonates with North American jazz fans as he has been based in the UK for a number of years. Although he received his jazz education at Boston’s Berklee College of Music and played in the Herb Pomeroy band, he may be best known for his collaborations with vibist Gary Burton. Some of this work is on display in the latest release from Mike Gibbs entitled Back In The Days.
The twelve tunes on this CD cover a period from 1995 to 2003.The three tracks from 1995 feature Gary Burton on vibes and are taken from a live concert at an undisclosed venue. While these three offerings are not presented sequentially on the disc, it makes sense to look at them all together given the Burton connection. Two of the cuts, “The Time Has Come” and “Mosher,” are Gibbs compositions with “Country Roads” penned by Gary Burton and Steve Swallow. With a sixteen piece ensemble at his disposal for these tunes, Gibbs’ arranging provides a harmonic backdrop that gives Burton the freedom to express his musical ideas. All three compositions offer different interpretive challenges with the first tune dancing brightly, then a moving ballad that also has some fine tenor work from Christof Lauer, and finally a funky blues on which Burton shines.
While Gibbs’ band voicings may not have the ethereal quality of a Gil Evans, nevertheless he has put together some arrangements that have complex structures and certainly the NDR Bigband is up to the challenge in their execution. On Jimmy Van Heusen’s “Here’s That Rainy Day”, there is an opening brass chorus with trumpeter Ingolf Burkhardt delivering the goods. Although Billy Eckstine was better known as a singer and trumpeter, he did write a number of familiar compositions, among which was “I Want To Talk About You”. Gibbs has crafted a fitting chart that takes advantage of the mellow tenor sax of Christof Lauer. The Miles Davis Quintet recorded an iconic version Thelonious Monk’s classic “Round Midnight”. Gibbs has used the original reflexive changes of the Davis chart as the jumping off point for his luxurious Evansesque version of the tune with Claus Stötter on muted trumpet.
The NDR Bigband is a top flight band and Mike Gibbs has written and arranged charts that are constantly audacious. This disc would be a worthwhile addition to anyone’s record collection.
TrackList: The Time Has Come; Back Where I Belong; June the 15th 1967; Tennis, Anyone?; Jail Blues; Antique; Here’s That Rainy Day; I Want To Talk About You; ‘Round Midnight; With All Due Respect; Mosher; Country Roads
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