`A new voice had entered UK jazz.’

Decca Deram 844907-2

Collective Personnel: Acoustic Guitar, Electric Guitar, Bass Guitar – Chris Spedding; Bass Guitar – Brian Odges*, Jack Bruce; Bass Trombone – Ken Goldy*, Maurice Gee, Ray Premru; Cello – Alan Ford, Fred Alexander; Drums – John Marshall, Tony Oxley; Electric Guitar, Bass Guitar – Ray Russell; French Horn – Alan Civil, Jim Buck Jr, Nicolas Busch*, Valerie Smith; Keyboards – Mick Pyne, Bob Cornford*; Percussion – Frank Ricotti; Reeds – Alan Skidmore, Barbara Thompson, Duncan Lamont, John Surman, Mike Osborne, Ray Warleigh, Tony Roberts; Trombone – Bobby Lambe*, Chris Pyne, Cliff Hardie, David Horler; Trumpet [Piccolo] – John Wilbraham; Trumpet, Flugelhorn – Derek Watkins, Henry Lowther, Ian Hammer*, Kenny Wheeler, Maurice Miller (2), Nigel Carter; Tuba – Dick Hart, Martin Fry (2)

Recorded September and December 1969

Family Joy,Oh Boy / Some Echoes, Some Shadows / Liturgy / Feelings and Things / Sweet Rain / Nowhere / Throb / And On The Third Day

To call a musician’s first album a classic requires some explanation. Mike Gibbs’ arrival in the sixties in the UK coincided with a rich period in UK Jazz. Many jazz musicians were beginning to question the prevailing conditions.  Innovators like Kenny Wheeler, John Surman, Mike Westbrook, Mike Osborne, Alan Skidmore were contributing to a sustained change and were not content to follow conventions.

Gibbs reordered the jazz orchestra:  he was not the first to do so. Gil Evans,  George Russell Carla Bley led the way. They saw beyond the blocks of sound from trumpets, trombones and saxophones.  They sought a different intensity, different combination of instruments, the layering of sounds were employed. Gibbs mentions innovators like Zenakis and Messiaen. Gibbs, like Gil Evans, is a diffident individual, listening to his shy, self-deprecating announcements is almost painful.

Gibbs has gone on to develop his art. Surrounded by many of the leading voices he has produced a body of work that is innovative exciting and groundbreaking. His first album has many clues to the paths that he would take.

For once the title of a jazz piece is not misleading.  ‘Family Joy, Oh Boy’ starts with an exultant cry from the brass.  Instantly, there is something new.  Vibraphone, a shadow emerges of Gary Burton who recorded this piece first  There are no blocks of instruments. This is new: instruments deployed in different ways and the guitar of Chis Spedding emerges, soaring over the eclectric piano: new textures, new rhythms, restless lattice of sounds.  Kenny Wheeler’s trumpet, is more assertive than usual.  The title is apt: there is joy.  The sprung rhythm  is not oppressive. The threads of music are embroidered together. Alan Skidmore emerges but does not dominate, only the writing does that.

Subtle layering of the musical elements: there is a cerebral opeoing with the cello leading to the most Gibbsian theme that is beautifully voiced in an extended unison, as it twists and turns, this what Gibbs does well. Chris Spedding and Jack Bruce  provide depth, together with the tuba.  Ray Russell and John Marshall drive the music forward as we try to decode the melodies infront of us.  The music changes. ‘Some Echoes and Some Shadows’, this is two pieces. Kenny Wheeler emerges from the thicket; the cello is still there.  There is enough happening to need many listens.

‘Liturgy’ features Chris Pyne and Phil Lee.  The saxophone xylophone theme leads to Phil Lee’s musical thougfhts.  Underneath everything is the rhythm, insistent but not dominant..  The orchestra’s  contribution has an astringency that verges on the sour before Pynes’ trombone.

‘Feelings and Things’.  A long piano solo and a brass chorale is impressionistic, blended with flute. ‘Nowhere’ is the most avant garde piece on the album: an indication of Gibbs’s bravery to include this on his first album.  The tick tocking from the rhythm and the long abstract melody with puctuations from the brass.  This is listening music, listening to catch the sounds.  This really is a drum solo accomaanied by screaming bass leading to a climatic ending. Gary Burton first introduced ‘Throb’.  The woodwinds lead to a cello solo and a slow rhythmic backing to a Chris Spedding solo.

The loose, swinging, rhythmic drumming from John Marsjhall opens the sheer beauty of ‘On The Third Day’.  It is the essence of Gibbs as he blends guitar, brass and flutes. Chris Pyne solos accompanied by shaky brass trills.  John Surman on baritone embellishes the second half of the piece.  The seductive beautiful, hypnotic rhythm holds the piece together as Mike Osborne and and Alan Skidmore join in the final celebration of the piece.

A new voice had entered UK jazz.  A year later Gibbs produced his second album Tanglewood ‘63:  music just as rich and challenging.