Mike Gibbs and the NDR Big Band - In My View
(Cuneiform Records. Rune 401. CD Review by Patrick Hadfield)
Whenever composer and arranger Mike Gibbs is discussed, the one name that comes up, again and again, is that of Gil Evans. It may be trite to repeat it, but the music Gibbs makes evokes Evans at his best, full of subtle dynamics and rich counterpoint between the reeds and brass, with long, languorous notes.
Gibbs has worked with the NDR Big Band for over forty years, and the compositions and arrangements on this CD were made with the band and the individual character of each of its soloists in mind. The four original compositions and five arrangements, recorded over three years between 2013 and 2015, form a very cohesive collection of tunes. Most of the musicians were present at all the sessions, aside from drummers Adam Nussbaum and Gene Calderazzo who appear on five and four selections respectively.
Evans' influence is evident throughout, but clearest on Gibbs' tune Spanish Sketch, the title itself indicating a link to Evans' famous collaboration with Miles Davis, Sketches of Spain. Christof Lauer's soprano hints at Moorish reeds.
Lauer also has the solo duty on Ron Carter's Mood, this time on tenor, though much of his solo is in the upper register. Below it, the horns create an atmosphere of sublime melancholy.
The arrangement of Monk's Misterioso feels the least successful on the record, the orchestra smoothing the jagged edges of Monk's composition. It contains a fine trombone work by Sebastian Hoffmann, Dan Gottshall, and Stefan Lottermann, and some very Monk-like piano lines from Vladyslav Sendecki.
The rhythm section create a tangible sense of drive and propulsion. There are moments when they get a real groove going, such as in parts As A Matter Of Fact. At other times they are more fluid, as on Mood.
The CD closes with a lovely arrangement of Gordon Jenkins' Goodbye, full of wistful lyricism - and another tenor solo from Lauer. Gibbs' familiarity with the orchestra enables him to bring out the best in them, crafting their sound. And it means they know how to get the best from Gibbs, too.
Patrick Hadfield lives in Edinburgh, occasionally takes photographs, and sometimes blogs at On the Beat. Twitter: @patrickhadfield.