Songs From My Father is the much-anticipated new album from renowned musical polymath Gerry Gibbs. On his thirteenth release as a leader, drummer – percussionist – bandleader – arranger Gibbs presents a smashing double-disc masterwork featuring four iterations of his acclaimed Thrasher Dream Trio. Under his astute direction, this band of jazz titans pays homage to the musical legacy of Gerry’s 96-year-old father, Terry Gibbs. To honor Terry, one of the last living architects of bebop and innovators of the vibraphone, Gerry selected 18 tunes from his father’s vast discography and interpreted the timeless material through his own refined compositional lens with inventive, modern arrangements. Notably, Songs From My Father features the last recorded performance of the great Chick Corea, and includes one of Chick’s tunes composed specifically for this project. With Gibbs in the drum chair, his Thrasher Dream Trios include Chick Corea and Ron Carter; Kenny Barron and Buster Williams; Patrice Rushen and Larry Goldings; and Geoff Keezer and Christian McBride; along with percussionist Kyeshie Gibbs.
A global pandemic could not slow down this jazz luminary – instead it inspired an impressive stint of creative output. Gibbs presents Songs From My Father fresh off the heels from his 2019 epic, genre-defying opus Our People, hailed by Philip Booth of JazzTimes as “Artfully layered pieces often verg[ing] on the cinematic…Quite a feat,” as well as 2020’s Emotional Pandemic, an 18-track album fully composed, engineered and performed (all eight instruments!) by Gibbs and released, free-of-charge, to a select 500 friends and collaborators. In fact, it was this release that piqued the attention of the legendary Chick Corea who initially inquired about Gibbs’ process for writing and recording all of the instruments. The conversation evolved to the possibility of collaboration, and the concept was born of releasing a double disc filled with the product of Gibbs’ collaborations with four astounding trios, including a collaboration with Corea and Ron Carter. Corea would later ask to be more deeply involved in the music that was being recorded, composing an original piece in dedication to Terry Gibbs “Tango For Terry”, and arranging two pieces for the album.
Gibbs remarks “What I wanted to do seemed almost impossible with COVID, fear, traveling, safety precautions as well as logistics. How do you coordinate four trios when a disease was spreading all over America?” In the throes of a global pandemic, Gibbs found himself on a several-month nationwide journey to capture recordings of himself alongside a long list of his friends and collaborators – the finest improvisers of our time. NEA Jazz Master Ron Carter notes, “one of the fun things that I look forward to, when playing with Gerry is what part of drum history will I be able to identify when he plays…what an unfortunate surprise that the trio recording that I was a part of with Gerry would be Chick’s last recording. Chick and I played on several recordings together and I cherish those moments even more now.”
“To record my challenging music,” Gibbs notes, “and not being able to rehearse because of safety protocols seemed unrealistic, so I changed course and thought it would be best to play music that would be great vehicles to do what these 8 of the greatest improvisers on the planet are known for doing, improvise!” Ultimately, the bandleader decided to perform material written by one of his all-time favorite musicians and composers, someone’s music that was deeply integrated within his own musical upbringing and the history and lineage of the jazz idiom – the archetypal works of his own father Terry Gibbs.
Terry Gibbs first earned international recognition touring with Chubby Jackson, Buddy Rich and Woody Herman. In 1951, he joined the Benny Goodman Sextet. Subsequently, he toured with his own quartet where he won the title of “# 1 Vibraphonist in the world,” in both the Downbeat and Metronome polls from 1950 to 1955. Gibbs also played a role in breaking down the race and sex barrier in music by employing pianists Terry Pollard, who he often featured in vibe duos, Pat Moran, and Alice Coltrane. Throughout his illustrious career Gibbs has enjoyed world acclaim playing with greats such as clarinetist Buddy DeFranco, Charlie Parker, Dizzy Gillespie, Horace Silver, Max Roach, Art Blakey, Elvin Jones and Tito Puente. With 65 albums to his credit, Gibbs is the composer of 300+ compositions that were recorded by Nat “King” Cole, Les Brown, Cannonball Adderly, Count Basie, George Shearing and many more.
Gibbs indicates that “for the longest time, I wanted to do a tribute to him while he was still here. He is getting ready to turn 97 this year and still in great shape. He is, of course, known for being one of the last original BeBoppers alive and innovators of the vibraphone. As you will hear, he composes in many different ways making it a lot of fun to reimagine his music through these 8 true giants in music – his melodies inspired some incredible solos from all 9 of us.”
During the process of recording, a huge tragedy occurred with the untimely and completely unexpected passing of Chick Corea. Gibbs notes “I, like everyone that’s my age, grew up learning from and idolizing Chick. For the last 5 months of his life we spoke weekly on the phone. Sometimes it was about future plans to do more music together, sometimes it was to talk about new music he or I was working on. Sometimes it was just to say hello. What an honor to have had those last 5 months becoming friends with him.” Songs From My Father is the last recording Chick Corea played on, a testament to Corea’s stellar creative output right up until the very end.
Disc 1 of Songs From My Father features Chick Corea and Ron Carter on “Bopstacle Course”, composed in 1974 and “Sweet Young Song of Love” composed in 1985, and arranged by Gibbs and Corea. The first disc’s final track, “Hey Chick”, is a special homage to the memory of Chick Corea. Conceived and compiled by Gerry Gibbs, this monumental performance features every musician from all four iterations of the Thrasher Dreams Trio as well as the audio from Terry Gibbs’ original 1961 recording of the composition, then titled “Hey Jim” (which also included pianist Pat Moran bassist Max Bennett and Mike Romero on drums). The melody of the piece is first stated by a trio with Geoff Keezer, Ron Carter and Gibbs on drums, seamlessly transitioning into the track’s first solo which features a recording of several choruses from Terry Gibbs’ solo from the original 1961 recording, which Gerry Gibbs fused with overdubbing from Larry Goldings on organ, and himself on drums.
The piece then transitions through five additional solos featuring various trios with Gerry Gibbs alongside Larry Goldings and Ron Carter; Kenny Barron and Buster Williams; Patrice Rushen and Larry Goldings; Geoff Keezer and Christian McBride; and Ron Carter, Buster Williams, Larry Goldings and Christian McBride respectively. Upon listening to this special compilation of masterful performers, Gerry and Terry discussed the matter and decided to retitle the tune “Hey Chick” as a dedication to the late musical titan. The Thrasher Dream Trio iteration with the inimitable Kenny Barron and Buster Williams is featured on the album opener “Kick Those Feet” and “Take It From Me” both composed in 1964. “Smoke Em Up” (1968) and “Lonely Days” (1955) both feature Gibbs alongside pianist Patrice Rushen and organist Larry Goldings. Gibbs performs with pianist Geoff Keezer and bassist Christian McBride on 1955’s “Nutty Notes”, and 1958’s “The Fat Man”.
Disc 2 provides audiences with further arrangements of timeless Gibbs compositions including 1949’s “T & S” and 1955’s “Lonely Dreams” featuring Barron, Gibbs and Williams; 1978’s “Townhouse 3”, 1961’s “Hippie Twist” and 1958’s “Pretty Blue Eyes” featuring Rushen, Gibbs and Goldings; 1978’s “4 A.M”, 1961’s “For Keeps” and 1955’s “Gibberish” featuring Keezer, Gibbs and McBride; and 1964’s “Waltz For My Children” featuring and arranged by Chick Corea, alongside Gibbs and Carter as well as the final piece on the album – “Tango For Terry” written and performed by Corea for his old friend Terry Gibbs.
After 10 months and 15,000 miles of car travel to assemble the recordings for this masterpiece, Gerry Gibbs’ newest outing will finally be in the hands of listeners. “Songs From My Father” acts as a document to the memory of the fallen jazz titan who graces many of its tracks, Chick Corea, and the legacy of the luminary whose work the album reflects, bebop architect Terry Gibbs. With this monumental new recording, Gerry Gibbs cements his standing as one of the most creative and forward-thinking musicians on the contemporary jazz scene.