…His compositions take care to give space to showcase the band members.
Sean Gibbs: Trumpet; Tom Walsh, James Davison, Freddie Gavita: Trumpet; James Copus: Trumpet/Flugelhorn: Trumpet; Tom Dunnett, Kieran McLeod, Richard Foote: Trombone; Richard Henry: Bass Trombone; George Millard: Alto/Soprano Saxophone; James Gardiner-Bateman: Alto Saxophone; Helena Kay, Riley Stone-Lonergan: Tenor Saxophone; Chris Maddock: Baritone Saxophone; Rob Brockway: Piano; Calum Gourlay: Bass; Jay Davis: Drums
Recorded 19th May 2022 by John Prestage at AIR Studios
Gibbs is a member of the Scottish National Jazz Orchestra (along with half a dozen of the people on this recording). So is no stranger to the sound and texture of a big band. He also plays in a bewilderingly wide range of other projects that cover a host of musical styles. But is as a big band composer that he has been making a mark for some while. He describes his approach to composing in terms of ‘lyrical melodies, hearty grooves, and a deep connection to the blue’.
While this list captures some of his style, it leaves out the most endearing and enjoyable which are a mischievous sense of humour and a deep respect for the sonorities of the blends of instruments that a 17-piece band offers. While he takes soloing responsibility across the tracks, his compositions take care to give space to showcase the band members.
The tunes often mix the sounds and rhythms of what you might think of as ‘traditional’ big bands, with their close harmonies, with a sort of post-bop sensibility that nudges some of the musical ideas just a bit beyond Swing (although, of course, anyone with even a passing knowledge of, say, Duke Ellington’s music will appreciate the breadth of musical ideas that have fed into big band music).
When the ensemble are in full flow, the attack of the brass section has the force of the SNJO. As the pieces shift to smaller ensemble playing, Gibbs’ approach to composition is much easier to discern and appreciate. Each tune has the panache and structure that would fit with many a big band and orchestra, and it is no surprise that his pieces have been performed by many of the orchestras in which he plays.
Reviewed by Chris Baber