RIP Ken Gibson

Ken Gibson in Dorset in 2012
Photo credit: Patricia Andrade

Trombonist, arranger/composer and producer, Ken Gibson, died on 12 June 2015 at the age of 75. Frank Griffith has written this tribute:

Ken Gibson was mainly known as amanuensis to Sir John Dankworth, a role in which he wrote, he copied, he typed, he took dictation, and managed the 'qnote' record label. Ken though, was much, much more than this to John, Cleo and Jacqui Dankworth, all of whom he  frequently collaborated with.

I met Ken in May 2007 during a mad three days of rehearsing, recording and performing at the Stables in Wavendon. One result of which was Dankworth's final big band CD "Jazz Matters- The Blues Aint and World Jazz" for the Qnote label on which I had the pleasure on playing on. Amanuensis indeed, as Ken was literally running from pillar to post amongst the cavernous Stables Theatre orchestrating, fixing notes as well as copying and printing off parts of the great man's scores all of which were hot off the press. Duncan Lamont's lyrics were sung by Cleo Laine and the all star band boasted the likes of Mark Nightingale, Henry Lowther, Marty Shaw, Andy Panayi, Alan Barnes, John Horler, Alec Dankworth and the late Allan Ganley, to name a few.

Ken and I used to converse by telephone and Facebook frequently. We would also meet at John and Cleo gigs, including a sold out event in February 2008 at the Barbican with the London Symphony Orchestra. He told me that while he was a student ar the Royal Academy of Music in 1969 he requested John to be his arranging teacher. He tole me that after his first (and only) lesson, John called upon him to help him orchestrate his film score to "Perfect Friday". One lesson then, followed by a forty year career of "amanuensing" for John. It is often the figure behind the scenes that is assumed to be a minor contributor to the outcome  - which Ken clearly was not.

Ken played a significant role on Jacqui Dankworth's 2011 CD,"It Happens Quietly", which was largely arranged by John. As John passed away in February 2010, Ken stepped in to conduct, arrange and help produce the CD which included strings. One of Ken's arrangements that stands out for me is his gently loping treatment of "I'm Glad There Is You". Introduced by a four note bass ostinato figure Jacqui sidles in with her cooly delivered medium tempo take on the melody. This is buffered by a five horn backing riff including horn and bass clarinet. Malcolm Edmonstone's understated brief solo excursion leads to Jacqui's re entry on the bridge followed by a subtle upward modulation in the final verse bringing this classic standard to a close.Such a fitting parable for this kind, generous and talented man's contributions to the music.

RIP Ken Gibson. Your sound and influence will not be forgotten.

LINK: Ken Gibson at Discogs


  1. Just a quick comment, the photograph is actual Combe Martin in Devon.

  2. And the video comes up as "not available"?

  3. Thanks for pointing that out. The track doesn't seem to be available any more other than by purchasing the album via Jacqui's website, so we have removed the link.