This album is a monumental release in so many ways I may not be able to count them – being a word guy, not a numbers guy. First off, it’s a big double disc set of vibrant, modern piano (mostly) trio jazz, featuring some of the biggest names in contemporary jazz as well as some top players of the past half-century and more. It’s a tribute by one of the most creative musicians in contemporary jazz, in honor of his father, himself a top player and bandleader since the early 1950s who’s still going strong today at age 96. And it contains the last recordings by a titan of the jazz world whom we lost in early 2021.
Gerry Gibbs is a drummer, percussionist and bandleader who has been playing and recording since 2012 with his Thrasher Dream Trio that includes Kenny Barron on piano and Ron Carter on bass. After their first trio date most of their recordings have included a variety of guests such as organist Larry Goldings, trumpeter Roy Hargrove and vocalist Cassandra Wilson.
This time out, he’s assembled four different iterations of the trio to play a double bill program in honor of his pops, the great vibraphonist and bandleader Terry Gibbs. If you want to know about Terry’s long and stellar career, check out his Wikipedia page. As if that weren’t enough, one of those four trios features Chick Corea on piano in what were apparently the last recordings he made before his death in February, plus the collection has a Corea tune created just for this project. All the rest are Terry Gibbs compositions arranged by Gerry.
The personnel Gibbs assembled are very impressive indeed. Some are musicians I’ve known and loved for nearly 50 years, and some I wasn’t yet familiar with. They are, in order of drums, keyboard, bass:
1. Gerry Gibbs, Chick Corea, Ron Carter.
2. Gerry Gibbs, Kenny Barron, Buster Williams.
3. Gerry Gibbs, Patrice Rushen, Larry Goldings (organ).
4. Gerry Gibbs, Geoff Keezer, Christian McBride.
Not to begin at the end, but the final track on Disc 2 is that first trio of Gibbs-Corea-Carter playing a new Corea composition “Tango For Terry,” dedicated of course to the elder Gibbs. Gerry Gibbs trots out his best blend of Latin percussion and post-bop drumming, Corea improvises cleanly and seemingly effortlessly as was his wont, and Carter nimbly moves between his immediately identifiable warm, blurry pizzicato and otherworldly bowed playing styles. And in tribute to Corea, the penultimate track on the first disc, the sprightly “Hey Chick,” has members of all four of the trios plus Terry Gibbs on his vibes (minus Corea) teaming up on a grand jam. Rushen and Barron try furiously to outdo each other on their piano solos, in particular.
The project kicks off in high gear with the Gibbs-Barron-Williams version of the trio on the uptempo “Kick Those Feet.” I’ve recently become a fan of Kenny Barron but haven’t delved deeply into his catalog yet, but I was a bit surprised that he and Williams are of the same generation, even born within a year of each other. Their second track “Take It From Me” is much more relaxed and swinging – I mean, Barron and Williams settle into a deep groove here. Also of note among their tracks is the frantic bop of “Gibberish” where Williams truly kicks some you know what … well, all three players do in their turns, and Barron keeps reinforcing my increasing love for his style.
The relative youngsters here, pianist Keezer and bassist McBride, have a delicious time turning in some takes on these tunes that are modern sounding while respecting tradition. On “The Fat Man” Keezer starts off sounding a bit like Vince Guaraldi to these ears but shows a lot of his own style on the improv sections.
Both Patrice Rushen and Larry Goldings are new to these ears. The peppy Samba “Townhouse 3” kicks off Disc 2 in good style; Rushen delivers some super clean runs on piano on this and her other selections by this iteration of the trio. The presence of Goldings’ organ adds some welcome alternate colors to two full discs of jazz trio music. The two play a lovely piano duet on “Waltz For My Children,” with I think Carter filling in on bass. Goldings returns the favor, sitting in on the Gibbs-Corea-Carter trio’s “Hippie Twist” to excellent effect.
Gibbs very wisely alternated the selections by each of the four trios, so there’s more sonic variety than might have occurred otherwise. And the song selection also helps in that regard. Truly I can’t find anything that’s not unremittingly positive to say about Songs From My Father, other than it has added several artists to my already extensive list of “follows” and “notifications,” but yeah, poor me!
(Whaling City Sound, 2021)