Songs from My Father is the 13th release from drummer/ bandleader/arranger Gerry Gibbs, known for his many iterations of his Thrasher Dream Trio. The last time we covered him on these pages was for his epic Thrasher People 19-part suite in 2019’s Our People with five musicians playing 40 different instruments. This outing returns to the trio configurations as he pays homage to his 96-year-old father, Terry Gibbs, one of the last living architects of bebop and an innovator on the vibraphone. Gerry selects 18 tunes from his dad’s discography, giving them a more contemporary sheen spread across 2 CDs. Notably, this project also features one of the late Chick Corea’s compositions, “Tango for Terry,” and two arrangements done specifically for this album. Gerry Gibbs tapped several legendary players, three NEA Jazz Masters and perhaps two or three future ones, informing these luminous trios – 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.
Considering that this was done during the pandemic is on one hand remarkable and on the other, a blessing in that the shutdown enabled the participation from these stellar musicians, who would otherwise, have likely been touring. Gibbs showed lots of determination across 10 months and 15,000 miles of car travel to assemble these recordings which began as the ultimate tribute to his dad but will stand as both a tribute to Terry Gibbs and serve as the final document to Chick Corea’s beloved memory.
The highly energetic Disc One opens with Barron and Williams rendering “Kick Those Feet” and “Take It From Me,” both composed in 1964, swinging acoustic workouts that, among other things, provide animated conversations and stimulating solos between and from all three musicians. “Bopstacle Course,” from 1974 follows, and later 1985’s “Sweet Young Song of Love,” arranged by Corea and Gibbs, with both featuring Corea and Carter. Keezer and McBride plunge right into the heart of bebop on two 1955 compositions – the lightning rapid runs of “Nutty Notes” inspired by Thelonious Monk and “Fat Man,” likely a nod to Fats Navarro. Note that the sequencing varies the trios such that the piano-organ pairing of Rushen and Goldings on “Smoke “Em Up” (1968) follows “Kick Your Feet” which, in turn, is followed by “Bopstacle Course’ and then “Nutty Notes” and so it goes.
“Lonely Days” (1955) also has Rushen and Golding in classic bebop mode before we get to the standout homage to Corea in “Hey Chick” which is conceived and arranged by Gerry Gibbs to involve the musicians from all four trios in some different pairings as well as the audio from Terry Gibbs’ original 1961 recording, then titled “Hey Jim.” The piece begins with a trio of Keezer, Carter, and Gibbs stating the melody before we hear several choruses from the original 1961 recording (hence the vibraphone) fused with overdubs of Gibbs on drums and Golding on organ. We then hear five additional solos from these various trios: Gibbs-Golding-Carter, Barron-Gibbs-Williams, Gibbs-Rushen-Goldings, Gibbs-Keezer-McBride, with the solos coming from in order Carter, Williams, Goldings, and McBride.
Disc Two has Gibbs, Barron, and Williams on 1949’s in another exciting dialogue between Barron and the leader in “T &S” and Barron’s specialty, the rare ballad in 1955’s “Lonely Dreams.” We have three from the Rushen-Gibbs-Goldings trio in the highly inventive percussion-laden “Townhouse 3,” (1978), the playful “Hippie Twist” (1961), and the ballad “Pretty Blue Eyes” (1958) where Rushen especially shines. Keezer -McBride-Gibbs also render three – the start-stop rhythmic “4 A.M” (1978), the briskly gliding “For Keeps” (1961), and the bebop “Gibberish” (1955), where McBride plucks lyrically in his signature way. Yet, many will appropriately focus on the Corea-Carter-Gibbs trio in Chick’s final recorded performances, first on 1964’s wistful “Waltz For My Children” which Corea arranged, and the capper, “Tango for Terry,” which Corea composed for his friend and Gerry’s dad, the soon-to-be 97-year-old Terry Gibbs, embracing the Spanish motifs that Corea was so well known for, with, as throughout, impressive drumming and percussion from both Gerry and Kyeshie. Carter does a little bit of everything here too – from anchoring the rhythm to a melodic bowed bass solo.
This is an outstanding trio (or series of trios) album that’s likely to garner plenty of attention on year-end lists due to the breadth of the project, the players involved, and the sentiment for Corea, one of the most beloved jazz artists of the past sixty years.