Review: Gerry Gibbs Thrasher Dream Trio – Live in Studio
All Star band Revisits the Classics
Chart topping drummer Gerry Gibbs and his trio are back this fall along with a couple of well-known guest artists with a superb new release of classic tunes. The album is time warp back to the 1960’s when a jazz song could be featured in a mainstream Hollywood movie and reach the top the Billboard charts.Grammy nominated Gibbs has definitely got a thing for the standards. He’s also skilled at getting top notch artists to play with him. He’s covered similar tunes before on albums like 2014’s “Thrasher Dream Trio.” Meanwhile, the groove is top notch; these tracks, “recorded in studio,” without any rehearsals, really swing.
All Star Line Up
The album features a truly all-star line-up. Gibbs is joined by his Thrasher Dream Trio mates – Kenny Baron and Ron Carter – and special guests Roy Hargrove and Cassandra Wilson on several tracks.The album opens with the upbeat standard “Wives and Lover,” a song that allows Baron to really stretch out. It’s one of several songs on the album penned by legendary composer Burt Bacharach. Wilson’s vocals on Bacharach’s “The Look of Love” are delightfully menacing – the tune is anchored by Carter’s bass and Gibbs’s drums. Her brooding take is also dominant on “Alfie” and “Watch What Happens,” although the mood improves on the latter. Wilson clearly enjoyed the opportunity to play with the band, noting in the liner notes “With Baron and Carter, they can call me for a gig at the Blue Igloo in Antarctica.”
Modern Take on the Classics
Although most of the tunes are half a century ago, the band is by no means stuck in the past. The release can be seen as a contemporary take on the classics. The album has a positive upbeat feel, much like band leader Gibbs’s genuinely amicable personality. That feeling, that all is good in the world, comes through loud and clear on tunes like the bossa nova hit “Watch What Happens,” which is actually on the album twice, once as an instrumental, and later with Wilson on vocals.
Another highlight, “Cast Your Fate to the Wind” has a crossover Vince Guaraldi/Charlie Brown Christmas feel that should appeal to a more mainstream audience. Still, the album is not without depth. The solos are complex as Gibbs ensures his guests have more than enough space to spread out. Check out Carter’s solo on “Watch” and “Cast” and you’ll see what I mean.
Gibbs, son of noted vibraphonist and bandleader Terry Gibbs, is himself is an accomplished player, with a natural sense rhythm and harmonics – he knows when to bring it on and has an equal sense of when to back off. He favors the brushes and cymbals throughout this recording – it’s a soft touch, fitting for most of these song selections. He honors the masters, even noting the origin of two cymbals (Tony Williams and Billy Higgins) on the liner notes – it’s an important part of the overall package.
Other highlights include Baron’s spacious lead on “Spartucus: Love Theme,” where he displays his trademark sense of lyricism and grace. Another classic, “Surrey with a Fringe on Top” is like a high speed chase, driven by Baron’s keys and Gibbs’s drum kit. Trumpeter Hargrove leads the charge on the another classic, “On A Clear Day.”
Gibbs opens with a tight intro on the finger snapping More (from Mondo Cane) made famous by Frank Sinatra. It’s one of those songs that you know and love but can’t always recall the name – the trio does it justice, pulling out all the stops.
Gibbs was bold to record “live” in the studio, without any advance prep – the artists were site reading the arrangements. The disc has the feel of a live album, warts and all, before an appreciative audience, without the clinking glasses.
At a recent performance at the Narrows Center for the Arts in Fall River, MA, it was clear Gibbs was in awe of the talent around him, challenged, but not intimidated. The interplay on the album between Barron and Carter once again demonstrate why they are jazz royalty. Their innate sense of the genre makes this a notable release in the annals of Jazz.
Whaling City Sound is a boutique Jazz label courageously producing CD’s in this era of increased digital media. They offer extraordinary attention to detail in the packaging and liner notes. CD’s are well engineered, with a live, raw feel, and a focus on the artist. Check out their other releases on their website whalingcitysound.com.
Ken Abrams is Music Critic at GoLocalProv, RI’s largest all digital news and lifestyle site. E-mail comments to firstname.lastname@example.org.