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Veteran educator and jazz pianist Tim Ray pays homage to some of his musical heroes with a piano trio album simply entitled Fire & Rain. It features various well-known standards from those who have been a major influence in his career, along with three original tunes added to the mix. Joining the pianist on this new adventure are familiar band mates, bassist John Lockwood and drummer Mark Walker, originally together for a Greg Abate concert and then for the Abate album Motif (Whaling City Sound, 2014). Since then, the group has performed as sidemen as well as a leading band of their own, gaining a reputation as one of the finest trio groups in the business.
Ray writes that the trio format is “one of the great ensemble innovations of the last century,” further concluding that “What makes an ensemble of piano, bass and drums so satisfying is the harmonic space…the rhythmic and coloristic focus…and a sonic balance” infused into the music. Who’s to argue? All of those elements seem to work out quite well here, resulting in an impressive and dynamic session of music one will revisit often.One of Ray’s musical influences was the legendary Thelonious Monk
who he pays tribute to on the opening hard-swinging Monk piece “Bye-Ya,” followed by the band’s beautiful treatment of Oliver Nelson
‘s oft-recorded standard “Stolen Moments.” Antonio Carlos Jobim
, another of Ray’s heroes, is covered here with a performance of one of his lesser-known compositions “Mojave,” which is one of the outstanding tracks of the set.
Other tribute pieces here include the Carla Bley song “Lawns” (actually a Bley tribute to the late pianist Larry Willis), Keith Jarrett‘s “The Windup” and Oscar Peterson’s “Nighttime.” The James Taylor title song “Fire & Rain” enjoys two performances here, with a lengthy nine-minutes plus track, and the final track, a radio edit version of less than five minutes duration.
Each player contributes an original tune to the album, with Ray’s “No Worries,” Walker’s “Moon in the Sea,” and Lockwood’s “The Meeting: The Jbug and the Kman” rounding out the set. Fire & Rain is an exceptional recording by this trio, and goes a long way to not only affirming Ray’s feelings about the trio format but also adding to their well-deserved reputation as one of the most formidable jazz trios around.
Terry Gibbs is a unique figure in jazz. Try naming another currently living musician who has played with Gillespie and Parker, Tommy Dorsey and Benny Goodman, Coleman Hawkins and Roy Eldridge, Woody Herman and Ray Brown, Sarah Vaughan and Ella Fitzgerald, Sonny Rollins and Lester Young, Duke Ellington and Count Basie – the list goes on and on: Terry Gibbs has played with them ALL!
Terry, whose real name is Julius Gubenko, was born on October 13, 1924, in Brooklyn, New York, to Aba Gubenko, a music teacher and leader of his own small ensemble that played at various Jewish family celebrations. During the war years, Gibbs served in one of the military orchestras, and afterward, he became a regular at the New York clubs on 52nd Street, the Mecca of bebop. Interestingly, Terry was one of the first vibraphonists to play in this style. Over his long career, he has recorded over 80 albums, composed over 300 compositions, and received numerous prestigious awards.
At the age of 90, Terry decided to retire. But that’s what it seemed like! In April 2016, Jerry “Thrasher” Gibbs, a well-known drummer, including to our readers, and Terry’s son, set up a studio right in his father’s house. He assembled a strong team of musicians and, with the blessing of Whaling City Sound’s chief, Neal Weiss, recorded the album “92 Years Young: Jammin’ at the Gibbs House” with Terry on the vibraphone. The album was released in 2017, created a sensation, and served as a worthy final chord of his long career. But again, it only seemed like it! The fire has not yet burned out!
As Terry himself writes in the liner notes of the presented album, shortly after the recording of “92 Years Young,” he composed a new melody. Negotiations followed with potential lyricists, with Neil Weiss and other interested parties. On December 27, 2022, the new album “The Terry Gibbs Songbook” was recorded, featuring 15 personally selected Terry compositions. Of course, Jerry, his son, participated in the recording, as did bassist Mike Gurrola, who also played on “92 Years Young.” Vocalist Danny Bacher was invited, and all arrangements were made by pianist and tenor saxophonist Tom Ranier. Terry envisioned a three-tenor saxophone section, as a reincarnation of Woody Herman’s orchestra section, where three of Lester Young’s students played: Zoot Sims, Stan Getz, and Al Cohn. As a result, Scott Hamilton and Harry Allen, renowned saxophone experts, joined Ranier. Terry Gibbs himself abandoned the mallets and participated in the recording as a pianist and vocalist(!). What can be said about the album? Great compositions, great musicians, exemplary mainstream jazz. It is evident to everyone that we shouldn’t expect exceptional virtuosity from the 98-year-old Terry, but the fact of his participation alone is priceless. For me, the most emotional moment of the album is the vocal dialogue between Terry and Danny Bacher in the composition “Now’s the Time to Groove.” It must be heard. And Terry Gibbs concludes his liner notes for the album with the following statement: “Listening to this CD, I, at the age of 98, am happy and proud, knowing that this is undoubtedly my last work in music but feeling like a winner.” Terry didn’t put an exclamation mark at the end of this sentence. I would like to do it for him!