Gerry Gibbs, during his 33-year career as a musician, has recorded 11 solo CDs as a leader. Gibbs’ first CD, The Thrasher, featuring Ravi Coltrane was executive produced by Quincy Jones for his own Qwest label back in the late ’90s. Gibbs has continually worked, recorded and toured with a who’s who of the greatest icons, from many generations of music going back some 90 years. He has drawn from his experiences working with everyone from Bebop legendsClark Terry, Donald Byrd, James Moody to forward thinkers such as legends Alice Coltrane, Larry Coryell, Stanley Clarke, Ornette Coleman, Billy Childsand Parliament Funkadelic to some of today’s newest artists currently on the scene, such as Flying Lotus and Kamasi Washington. Combine that with Gibbs’ penchant for no boundaries and you get this wonderful new CD featuring a band that makes 28 ambitious songs sound like 28 different bands.
Most prominently, Weather or Not, a double-disc set, is split down the middle. The first disc is a tribute to the music of fusion super group Weather Report. The second disc is subtitled The Life Suite: 1981-2016 (selected songs that Gibbs chose from music he composed from his 11th grade year in high school to the present) and includes an eclectic array of Gibbs’ originals all played in trio format. More on these two story lines later. The last thing, and perhaps the biggest story here, is the Thrasher People, the new band Gibbs put together for this project and going forward.
Each member of this trio is a virtuoso on many instruments: Alex Collins, 30, is an extraordinary talent who plays acoustic piano, Fender Rhodes and organ, as well as adding unique vocals as a fourth instrument on select songs. Hans Glawischnig is the acoustic and electric bass wizard. At times he plays the electric bass like a guitar, using a pick and guitar amplifier. With Gibbs doing most of the “thrashing” as leader, composer, arranger and drummer, he is also a gifted multi-instrumentalist, supplying Mini Moog, vibes, marimba, percussion, electronic programming, kalimba and quica, while adding a choir of voices and beat-boxing. His Thrasher People join him hungrily, enthusiastically, with the excitement of a band discovering successful new sounds together. This is not just a recording of three guys in the studio reading through 28 compositions; it’s an actual working band. They rehearsed over 40 times before recording the music on this CD to develop and document their unique and individual combinations of sound, composition, orchestration, texture and rhythm.
Gibbs, on the hunt for new band mates for over a year, first met Collins at a New York jam session and the two hit it off. Upon hearing Gibbs’ concept for a Weather Report tribute recording, Alex came up with his own unique take on Zawinul, Pastorius and Shorter, et al. Glawischnig, a decade and a half older than Collins, had a firm foundation in the WR repertoire, as well as a keen interest in joining the project. Together, the band performs a wide spectrum of material across both discs.
On the Weather Report CD, few stones are left unturned as the trio tackles the classics and many more. The “Birdlands,” “Teen Towns” and “Palladiums” are all here, but these and other tunes represented here cast Weather Report in an entirely different light. Good thing, too, as it would be a fool’s errand to try to take on the band at their own game; a point expressed enthusiastically by Weather Report’s founding member Wayne Shorter. Classic WR tunes are re-imagined; the rhythms are different while the organic nature of the compositions and it’s sound are fleshed out and turned way up. The sparks fly thanks to Collins’ prodigious multi-keyboard talent. Glawischnig’s unerring bass lines smartly steer clear of any of the great Jaco Pastorius’ unmistakable, signature approach to the electric/fretless bass. Gibbs’ drumming is masterful throughout. His fills, sexy brushwork, and rapid-fire drum stylings masterfully reflect a deep-layered knowledge of the repertoire at hand, while allowing his own approach to sit comfortably when reflecting on Weather Reports’ formidable drum chairs, occupied by Alphonse Mouzon, Peter Erskine, Alex Acuna, among others.
On the disc of originals, Gibbs and his Thrasher People dig deeply into Gibbs’ own compositions. The story for the second CD reflects the concept of 16 songs sounding like 16 different bands. This was necessary and fitting, as they were penned over a time spanning 35 years. The songs veer from Bee-Bop (“Paul and Sid’s Blues”), to Brazilian (“Just Glad to Be Anywhere”) to R&B instrumental (“Patrice Rushen”), to ’70s TV soundtrack music (“Kojak”) and even Gibbs combining beat boxing with an African kalimba (“St. Marteen”). There’s also flamenco, gospel, funk, soul, and jazz/rock flavors-all filtered through a deep jazz funnel.
The creative juices are flowing and genuine from top to bottom, as Gibbs proves he is, and has seemingly always been, an ever-flowing river of solid & creative source material. Truly a wealth of originality and musical excitement on this outstanding new double-disc set, with more diversity than can just be put into one category.