photo: John Watson / jazzcamera.co.uk
On Mike Gibbs + Twelve Play Gil Evans (Whirlwind Recordings), given the heritage of the music, choice of arrangements is crucial. Gibbs doesn’t go for the obvious. So, for instance, comparing Gil Evans & 10, a formative influence on Gibbs at a young age, you might expect some of the songs from this 1957 album to crop up perhaps extended in some way. But no, none of them are here. Instead Gibbs tackles ‘Bilbao Song’ and takes Evans’ arrangement of Horace Silver’s ‘Sister Sadie’ from Out of the Cool recorded three years later than Gil Evans & 10. And then there’s ‘Las Vegas Tango’ from The Individualism of Gil Evans released in 1964.
And there’s the non-Evans material. ‘Ida Lupino’, a Carla Bley tune that has appeared on several albums including Paul Bley’s trio album Closer recorded in 1965; Gibbs’ own remarkably simpàtico 3/4 tune ‘Feelings & Things’, a composition that goes back to 1967 Gary Burton quartet album Lofty Fake Anagram; Rodgers and Hart’s ‘Spring is Here’ a standard Evans had joined Miles Davis to perform at an African Research Foundation fundraiser at Carnegie Hall; Ornette Coleman’s Ramblin’ from Change of the Century released in 1960; WC Handy’s classic ‘St Louis Blues’, a composition Evans arranged for his 1958 album New Bottle, Old Wine; and another Rodgers and Hart standard, ‘Wait Till You See Her’, which appeared on Quiet Nights, Evans and Miles’ last album together released in 1964. But it’s Gibbs’ own composition ‘Tennis Anyone’, which appeared on 1995 album Back in The Days recorded with the NDR Big Band, that brings the album to a close.
Gibbs last year ahead of recording mentioned that he had thought about other arrangements for the album that haven’t appeared in the end, including ‘Falling Grace’, ‘Antique’, ‘Misterioso’, ‘Skippy’, and ‘Round Midnight’. Whether or not they will appear on another album at some stage we’ll have to wait to see. Clearly Gibbs has plenty of ideas.
The picture in the inlay of the CD’s digipak behind the disc itself shows if you look closely what looks like a cold studio judging by the coats and scarves some of the musicians are wearing and the radiator by Gibbs’ side. No surprise maybe as Mike Gibbs + Twelve Play Gil Evans was recorded in chilly December. Yet ‘Cool’ rather than ‘cold’, of course, is the order of the day here and in the band the French horn player (the instrument a crucial presence in Evansiana), Jim Rattigan, goes way back with Gibbs, and played, for instance, on the Gibbs Orchestra’s 1993 album By The Way. But everyone else, that’s Finn Peters (as, fl); Julian Siegel (ts, ss, bclt); Lluis Mather (ts, ss, cl); Percy Pursglove, Robbie Robson, Joe Auckland (t, flhn); Mark Nightingale (tb); Sarah Williams (btb, tuba); Hans Koller (p); Michael Janisch (b); and Jeff Williams (d), are much more recent musical acquaintances of Gibbs’ who conducts here, at least in terms of appearing on record. Koller’s role is particularly important, and both Koller and Gibbs have had access to original Evans arrangements.
It’s a lovely album, one that will delight both connoisseurs of Evans’ music and Gibbs’. The 10 pieces knit perfectly together irrespective of their origins and stylistically there is a unity. Solos are not an issue because even when there is an instrumental break these features seem to still belong to the ensemble such is the subtlety and frequent majesty of the arrangements. The spell is never broken. Where Evans ends and Gibbs begins is impossible to detect and a great strength of this excellent and yes, oh so cool, album. Stephen Graham