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We're Back

Whaling City Sound WCS 069



  1. Too High

  2. What's Going On

  3. Where Is The Love

  4. Reasons

  5. Mighty Mighty

  6. Betcha By Golly, Wow

  7. My Cherie Amour

  8. Creepin'

  9. Fantasy

  10. Living For The City/Overjoyed

  11. Brazilian Rhyme

  12. Runnin'

  13. I Say A Little Prayer

  14. Pick Up The Pieces

  15. The Theme

    Gerry Gibbs - Drums

    Ron Carter - Acoustic Bass

    Kenny Barron - Acoustic Piano

    Warren Wolf - Vibraphone (tracks 2, 6, 7, 11, 12)

    Larry Goldings - Hammond B3 (tracks 2, 7)

    Steve Wilson - Saxophones (tracks 5, 9)

    Kyeshie Gibbs - Wind chimes, rain stick, African bells

    If there was a prize for versatility in jazz, drummer, producer, bandleader, composer and arranger Gerry Gibbs would be a contender. The son of renowned vibraphonist Terry Gibbs, Gerry has made his own significant mark on the jazz scene. His debut album as a leader was back in 1996 with his sextet. He has subsequently led the Thrasher Big Band and his Electric Thrasher Orchestra as well as trios. Clearly, too, he is a fan of the concept album. His latest recording venture, for instance, celebrates the music of Weather Report. What we have here, though, is the second of three highly successful, jazz chart topping, collaborations with those jazz titans, pianist Kenny Barron and bassist Ron Carter. This 2014 recording, unlike the first in the series, includes three guest musicians as well as the core trio. True to form, the disc is a concept album, described as 'Jazz Interpretations of R & B Classics'. That's an accurate description if we understand r&b in its widest sense, comprehending, as it came to in the 1970s, soul, funk, and even disco. It's a rich vein on which to draw. The music of Stevie Wonder and of Earth, Wind and Fire predominates but there's also room, for example, for David and Bacharach's I Say A Little Prayer, no doubt because of its association with Aretha Franklin.

    As Warren Wolf rightly remarks in the liner notes, Betcha By Golly,Wow is a beautiful tune. Wolf's relaxed and mellow vibes feature on this lovely ballad while Kenny Barron contributes a typically sensitive interpretation of the theme. Gerry Gibbs is both restrained and inventive in support. Stevie Wonder's Living For The City and Overjoyed keep company with each other on another excellent track. Overjoyed receives most attention with the unmistakable notes of Living For The City serving to top and tail the main melody. The trio as a whole play exquisitely but it is the sublime Barron who is at his dreamy best. On I Say A Little Prayer the trio are evidently enjoying themselves. I loved Gibbs' swinging contribution and the groovy improvisation from Barron. By the way, there's a great ending to the track. We are reminded that Ron Carter actually played on the original recording by Roberta Flack and Donny Hathaway of Where Is The Love. Obviously, what goes around, comes around! Here he is again, along with Gibbs, providing solid support for Barron who plays with light-hearted abandon. Carter's superb touch is also to the fore on the melodic Reasons, in dialogue with Gibbs, and on Creepin'.

    The three guest musicians are class-acts. The merits of rising star Warren Wolf have already been briefly mentioned. His lively playing, together with Larry Goldings' punchy and energetic Hammond B3, helps provide momentum for Marvin Gaye'sWhat's Going On. The same combination works well on My Cherie Amour. Wolf picks out the tune delicately and Golding is nothing short of funky on the Hammond

    organ. Add to this, nifty drumming from Gibbs, an in-the-groove solo from Barron and Carter functioning with his usual proficiency, and you have seven and a half minutes of pleasure. In the rapid-fire piece, Runnin', Warren Wolf once more shows himself a worthy heir to the school of Lionel Hampton or Milt Jackson. The remaining guest is saxophonist Steve Wilson. He provides a pulsating alto solo on Mighty, and plays a bustling soprano sax in keeping with the headlong nature of Fantasy, in this interpretation. A couple of tracks on the album are almost too brief to pronounce upon, namelyBrazilian Rhyme and The Theme. Pick Up The Pieces (the original sold a million discs for the Average White Band in the 1970s), not only has some neat interchanges by members of the trio but includes a lengthy solo by Gibbs. It didn't resonate with me as much as other tracks on the album, however.

    As you can see, my reservations are slight. I notice that Gerry Gibbs' kit includes items that have belonged to past masters, such as Buddy Rich, Elvin Jones, Tony Williams and Billy Higgins. This is someone who takes the tradition seriously, as is illustrated not just by his drum set or his parentage but by the creative way he goes about his trade. Keep your eyes open for the latest Thrasher Dream Trio release. It is entitled Live In Studio, and has trumpeter Roy Hargrove and singer Cassandra Wilson as guests. If it is of the calibre that We're Back represents (and why shouldn't it be?), we're in for a further treat.

    James Poore

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