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Friday, March 15, 2019

Vibes On Velvet - Terry Gibbs

Lullaby Of Swing
Vibes On Velvet
Terry Gibbs
EmArcy - High Fidelity Jazz
EmArcy 36064
Mercury Records

From the back cover: To many who have followed his fast-moving career through the past few years, Terry Gibbs has represented the embodiment of the vim, vigor, verve and vitality that have always been a basic ingredient of jazz. But those who have studied Terry and his work more closely are aware that there is another side to this bright story, a musical personality that speaks in gentle tones in a vocabulary drawn from the prettiest and subtlest of songs.

This is the Terry Gibbs you will meet in Vibes On Velvet, which marks a departure in the young poll-winning vibraphonist's recording career.

The velvet in this instance is one of the loveliest textures the weaver of pretty jazz can design – a cushion of five saxophones in richly harmonized backgrounds. The saxophonists are all musicians with many individual accomplishments to their credit. Hal McKusick plays lead tenor, alto, and occasionally, as in the unusual treatment of Aidos, soprano sax. Sam Marowitz, remembered best as a cornerstone of the original Woody Herman Herd, is the other alto man. Frankie Socolow, who was in the Chubby Jackson combo with which Terry Gibbs visited Scandinavia in 1947, is one of the tenor sax men; the other is Raymond Black, husband of Gibbs's pianist, Miss Terry Pollard. Completing the reed section is Al Epstein, a fine and underrated ex-Benny Goodman baritone saxophonist.

Completing the personnel are the regular members of the Gibbs Quartet – Terry Pollard, piano; Gerald Segal, drums; Herman Wright, bass – with a guitarist added in the person of Turk Van Lake.

Another important participant in the proceedings, though not actively involved as an instrumentalist, was Manny Albam, whose skillful and sympathetic arrangements effected a happy wedding between the vibes and the velvet. Manny was born in 1922 in the Dominican Republic (however, since his mother was just visiting there and returned to the U.S. when her son was six weeks old, this hardly entitles Manny to consider himself the Rubirosa of Jazz). Aside from a 1945-46 Army stint, he spent most of the 1940s playing baritone sax in various bands and writing arrangements for many of them (including Georgie Auld, Charlie Barnet and Charlie Ventura). Manny gave up playing five years ago to concentrate on arranging, and is now one of the busiest free-lance writers in New York.

Terry Gibbs own biographical background is by now familiar to most of his fans, but to recapitulate briefly: born in Brooklyn in 1924, of a musical family, he gained much early experience playing under the baton of his father. At the age of twelve he won a Major Bowes contest, and for a while he toured in one of Bowes' amateur units. After three years of Army service, he won his 52nd Street wings with Bill de Arnago's combo, later working for Tommy Dorsey, Buddy Rich and Woody Herman, and touring Scandinavia with Chubby Jackson's combo in 1947. He as worked for Benny Goodman since then, but for the most part has fronted small groups of his own since 1949. He won his first Metronome and Down Beat polls as the country's No. 1 vibes man in 1950, and has since acquired a whole shelf-ful of plaques. He lists Milt Jackson, Teddy Charles and Lionel Hampton as his favorite vibes men. Originally trained on drums and tympani, he is also a talented pianist and composer.

The electric, fast-moving nature of Terry's normal vibes style is a reflection of his general manner as a person, which makes the Vibes On Velvet sides a doubly pleasant surprise. As for the material he has chosen, you will find some of the less overworked of the best standard songs – Boulevard of Broken Dreams and The Moon Was Yellow, for example, are all too seldom recorded nowadays – as well as three Terry Gibbs originals, the moody Leaving Town, the charming Lullaby Of Swing and the attractive minor-key Two Sparkling Eyes. This last was adopted by Terry form an old Russian air that Terry recalls having played with his father many years ago at wedding ceremonies, and it was Mrs. Gubenko, Terry's mother, who suggested that he rewrite and record it for this album.

It's not surprising that Terry Gibbs himself, usually very critical of his own work, feels enthusiastically satisfied with the way Vibes On Velvet turned out and believes it may prove to be his most important set to date. For continuity of style, for homogeneity of mood and for teamwork between soloist and arranger, few jazz LPs in recent years can match it. We're such you'll enjoy the "new" Terry Gibbs and the smooth, romantic touch of Vibes On Velvet.

From Billboard - June 16, 1956: In this album of familiar ballads, the vibist has an unusually strong commercial entry. He makes his instrument speak in gentler tones than is customary for him, and so even tho he sounds a bit suppressed jazz-wise, he has some beautiful styled tunes here that will have pop as well a jazz sales potential. Included are "Mood Indigo," "Smoke Gets In Your Eyes" and "It Might As Well Be Spring." The "velvet" background is provided by five saxes, guitar and the regular rhythm members of the Gibbs Quartet. If one could wish for more vitality in the ensemble and more variety in the writing, this still does not obscure the appeal this LP will have for the crowd in the bleachers.

Autumn Nocturne
Lonesome Streets
Leaving Town
For You, For Me, For Everyone
The Moon Was Yellow
Smoke Gets In Your Eyes
Boulevard Of Broken Dreams
Mood Indigo
It Might As Well Be Spring
Lullaby Of Swing
Two Sparkling Eyes

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