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You’re currently reading “mike gibbs,” an entry on metropolis | jazz, free-jazz and improvised music
- 30.09.06 / 4pm
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is a composer, arranger and trombonist. A graduate of the Berklee College of Music, Boston, he has worked with many of the leading lights of the music world including Pat Metheny, John McLaughlin, John Scofield, Michael Mantler, Mike Stern, Joni Mitchell, Whitney Houston and Peter Gabriel.
Mike Gibbs was born September 25th, 1937, in Salisbury, Southern Rhodesia (now Harare, Zimbabwe) and grew up playing trombone and piano. In 1959 he relocated to the USA, where he enrolled at Berklee College of Music, Boston. In the summer of 1960 he obtained a full scholarship to Lenox School of Jazz, where he studied with Gunther Schuller, George Russell and J.J.Johnson. He graduated from Boston Conservatory of Music (B.Mus) in 1963 and subsequently secured a full scholarship at Tanglewood Summer School where he studied with the likes of Aaron Copland, Iannis Xenakis, Gunther Schuller and Lukas Foss. By this stage he had already made his recording debut (1962) as arranger and composer for Gary Burton with Phil Woods, Tommy Flanagan and Joe Morello.
In 1964 Mike moved from the USA to the UK where he went on to play trombone for the likes of Tubby Hayes, Graham Collier, John Dankworth and Cleo Laine. He also worked as a studio musician for radio, television, film and music albums, as well as doing arranging work in these contexts. Between 1968 and 1974 he worked with his own bands, playing concerts, clubs and radio broadcasts in UK and Europe; he also performed his music with radio bands of Denmark, Sweden, Finland, Hamburg and with the Hannover Radio Symphony. In the early 70’s he won several Melody Maker Awards, including First Composer, Best Big Band, Musician of the Year, First Arranger and his own album In the Public Interest was voted Best Album of 1974.
By the late 1960’s Mike Gibbs was generally recognised as being one of the leading younger composer/arrangers in Jazz. He had already absorbed his main influences (Gil Evans, Charles Ives, Olivier Messiaen) and found his own sound and style. His buoyant rock rhythms and his use of assymetry anticipated the jazz-rock movement of the 1970’s and compositions as Family Joy, Oh Boy! and Tanglewood ‘63 showed extraordinary melodic gifts as well as great orchestral sonority. In particular, his writing for the lower instruments was often powerfully dramatic and his work already showed considerable emotional resonance, ranging from the ominous brooding of And On The Third Day to the irrepresible high spirits of Family Joy,Oh Boy – one of the most joyous compositions in jazz or any other music. His composition Sweet Rain has been recorded many times (Stan Getz, Stephane Grappelli, Gary Burton, Randy Weston et al) and is now something of a jazz standard.
In 1974, Mike returned to the USA to take up the post of Composer-In-Residence at Berklee College of Music, but continued to do occasional tours and concerts with his own bands as well as performances with European Radio Bands and Orchestras. In the early 1980’s he also worked briefly as a producer for Elektra/Asylum records.
In 1983, Mike resigned his post at Berklee to freelance in New York for two years, then moved back to London in ‘85. In 1988 he resumed recording with his own ensembles, resulting in the highly praised Big Music album for Virgin/Venture; he also returned to live performance, notably in 1991 with John Scofield for a UK national tour and in 1995 with Gary Burton and the NDR Big Band for a radio concert.
Over the years, Mike Gibbs has composed and arranged music for films, television, albums, ballet, jazz groups, symphony orchestras and is equally conversant in modern, traditional, jazz and classical styles. His recent projects include a composition for Bill Frisell and the Birmingham Contemporary Music Group (Bloods of Dust); a piece for London Brass (About Face); an album of European Folk Music (Europeana) for Joachim Kuhn with the Hannover Radio Symphony; music for Bill Forsyth’s film (Gregory’s Two Girls); arranging and conducting a concert of Ellington music in Weimar with Gary Burton and NDR Big Band and Radio Symphony Orchestra; and for the academic year 1999/2000, he took up a part-time professorship in Jazz Composition and Arranging at the Sibelius Academy Jazz Dept. in Helsinki.
In 2001, Mike recorded his debut album for Provocateur Records titled Nonsequence travelling to Hamburg and New York to complete the sessions.
Mike Gibbs on Provocateur Records
Recorded in Hamburg and New York during February and May 2001, Nonsequence presents seven new Mike Gibbs original compositions alongside stirring new arrangements of John Scofield’s Lost In Space, Glenn Miller’s Moonlight Serenade and Meshack Mkhwanazi’s African-tinged Now Listen Here or “Thul?ulalele”.
For the New York sessions Gibbs recruited a 17-piece band that includes Lew Soloff, Randy Brecker, Earl Gardner, Chris Potter, Chris Hunter, Jim Pugh, Hiram Bullock, Steve Swallow and Billy Kilson. In Hamburg he worked with the NDR Big Band – featuring Christof Lauer, Claus Stotter and Vladyslav Sendecki one of the most technically accomplished and propulsive big bands in Europe. Together they have produced one of the most thrilling and refreshingly original big band albums in recent times – a recording that is set to become the benchmark for all that follows.
…the best Mike Gibbs’ disc in well over a decade.’ ‘At 64, Mike Gibbs might just be beginning a personal renaissance.’ ‘Back on the beat.’THE GUARDIAN
‘This is a genuine event… Rich, warm and spiced with gentle wit’ ‘[Mike Gibbs] has the rare talent of being able to compose music which is both highly original and entirely listener-friendly, and his style is instantly recognisable.’THE OBSERVER
‘Nonsequence is up there with some of Mike Gibbs’ best albums. It succeeds in being both challenging and seductive.’ ‘A welcome addition to Mike Gibbs’ never-large-enough discography.’ ‘Mike Gibbs [is] back where he belongs – at the heart of British jazz and among the elite of its composers.’JAZZWISE
‘Since Gibbs last recorded, one of his key influences, Gil Evans, died – leaving a space where a big band sound should be. With Nonsequence Gibbs goes some way towards filling that gap.’ ‘There are two good reasons for fans of big band music to celebrate this release. One is that Mike Gibbs doesn’t make too many albums as a leader. Second, when he does, it’s usually been worth the wait.’JAZZ REVIEW
‘Fans of Mike Gibbs’ distinctive approach to writing for the large jazz ensemble will be delighted with this rare release from him…Totally absorbing.’JAZZ UK
‘…an important release from a musician still making his mark on the music after more than three decades.’BBC MUSIC MAGAZINE
‘The release of a new album by composer Mike Gibbs is a special event on the jazz scene – eagerly awaited and never disappointing.’ ‘…another stimulating album from a composer who has given us so many magnificent recordings.’WEST MIDLANDS) EVENING & STAR
‘…this excellent disc deserves to trigger exuberant celebrations.’ ‘Gibbs’ compositions and arrangements are really like no-one else’s, a perfect assimilation of formality and freedom, with exquisitely-voiced interlocking section parts and chord changes that bring out the best in the soloists.’ ‘…one of the most respected composers and arrangers in jazz… revered by musicians and enthusiastic listeners around the world…’BIRMINGHAM POST
‘Mike Gibbs’ latest album… is his first in 13 years. It’s been worth the wait. His original flair as a writer-arranger is undiminished, and he is well served in exhilarating interpretations of his charts.’MANCHESTER EVENING NEWS
Selected Mike Gibb’s Recordings