CD review: Michael Gibbs & the NDR Big Band

Back In The Days
Cuneiform Records Rune 322

There is so little of the wonderful Mr Gibbs available on CD that a recording of the composer and arranger blowing his nose would be welcomed , but even in a burgeoning back catalogue this would still be a bit of a treat.

And especially so for those of us who heard him recently leading the Hans Koller band in a mixture of his own pieces and those of Gil Evans, because some of those compositions – his own Antique and Tennis, Anyone? (a fabulous piano solo on this from Vladyslav Sendecki), as well as his gorgeous arrangement of Thelonious Monk’s ‘Round Midnight – are here.

The recordings come from between 1995 and 2003, and the cumulative personnel includes Gary Burton on vibes, Christof Lauer on tenor and Claus Stotter on trumpet, as well as some more familiar names to UK fans, like Martin France and Mark Mondesir on drums (on different sessions).

Mike Gibbs and the band

There are other Gibbs originals, like The Time Has Come, the fabulously sleazy Jail Blues (showing its origins as a music cue from a Tales From The Darkside TV episode, and featuring a fearsome alto solo from Fiete Felsch) and June the 15th 1967 (the date of this bustling swinger is significant only in that it is the date it was written).

And then there are the lovely arrangements of favourite songs by others, like Jimmy Van Heusen’s Here’s That Rainy Day and Gary Burton’s and Steve Swallow’s similarly evergreen Country Roads, a favourite for the end of a Gibbs concert.

All the usual Gibbs traits are here, including, naturally, his wonderful writing for the low brass – a case of the trombonist doing his fellows some favours. What is really striking once more is how careful he is with the time he is allowed (the hallmark of a film composer?). There is no froth anywhere, no self-indulgence. It’s all vital stuff with no filler.

A very valuable addition to any (no matter how meagre) Mike Gibbs collection.



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