Trumpeter Sean Gibbs is one of a rare breed of musicians whose natural habitat is the big band.

Trumpeter Sean Gibbs is one of a rare breed of musicians whose natural habitat is the big band. Scottish born and now London resident, Gibbs has steadily built a reputation as a top class soloist and a big band composer and arranger par excellence.

His is a member of the Scottish National Jazz Orchestra, Calum Gourlay Big Band and Paul Towndrow’s Keywork Orchestra. He released his own b ig band album, Confluence in November 2022 to critical acclaim (click here to read our review and the Sean Gibbs Big Band make an eagerly awaited at The Vortex on 2nd June.

Of his favourite albums, Sean says…

Art Blakey & The Jazz Messengers – Moanin’

This is where it all started for me with getting in to jazz. Lee Morgan’s playing has so much character, and each of his solos on this album are mini masterpieces in themselves. The compositions, mostly by Benny Golson, are all really memorable, including the somewhat overlooked Drum Thunder Suite.

Oscar Peterson Trio & Clark Terry – Oscar Peterson Trio Plus One

This is just the most joyful, swinging album you could ever hope to hear. Clark Terry is incredibly virtuosic, but always with so much soul and musicality. The same goes for Oscar Peterson of course, so this a real match made in heaven.

Joni Mitchell – Blue

A pretty obvious choice really, but for good reason. This is such a beautiful set of the most intimate and vulnerable songs. Joni’s melodies could on the face of it be quite awkward and clunky, but they sound so right in context, like they couldn’t possibly be any other way. She just has a totally unique approach to phrasing and songwriting.

Laura Mvula – Sing To The Moon

I somehow only got round to checking this out quite recently, but I fell in love with it straight away. The songs are so beautifully crafted, with so many lovely details in the arrangements, you really do hear something new with every listen. Laura’s voice is totally mesmerising.

Tedeschi Trucks Band – Revelator

I’ve always had a soft spot for blues guitar, and Derek Trucks is one of best around. He’s got an incredible tone and is so economical with his note choices, developing phrases really beautifully and organically.

Susan Tedeschi is one of my favourite singers and has real versatility, sounding equally great on the lighter, prettier ballads through to the full-on gospel-tinged belting. I feel that the blues/gospel/country influences that have crept into my writing and playing owe a large amount to this band.

Wayne Shorter – Speak No Evil

This album features some of Freddie Hubbard’s best playing on record for me – such a huge sound, incredible feel and deeply rooted in the blues. Wayne’s compositions are all instant classics and the whole band just sound totally inspired throughout. What more can you say really?

Kenny Wheeler – Music For Large & Small Ensembles

This was the first big band album I got in to heavily as a kid, and it’s still a huge influence. I particularly love the way Kenny writes for the saxes against the brass in the big ensemble sections. There are so many beautiful melodies throughout, and Peter Erskine provides such great energy and momentum. It’s amazing to think that Kenny was already 60 when this was recorded. His playing is incredible, especially on the cadenza going into the closing theme of The Sweet Time Suite.

Duke Ellington – Such Sweet Thunder

I was lucky enough to perform this at the BBC Proms as a student with the National Youth Jazz Orchestra of Scotland, and it’s stuck with me since. Ellington was the master at writing music which brought out the best of all the different personalities in his band.

There’s so many great examples here, including Britt Woodman on ‘Sonnet to Hank Cinq’, Clark Terry on ‘Up and Down, Up and Down’, and Johnny Hodges on ‘The Star-Crossed Lovers’, which is probably my favourite ballad of all time.

I’ve tried to write similarly bespoke music on my new big band album Confluence, composing with the individual players firmly in mind.

Bob Brookmeyer New Art Orchestra – New Works Celebration

Bob Brookmeyer spans so much of the history of jazz, and you can really hear it all on this album, recorded in his late sixties in 1997. Despite sounding very contemporary, it always maintains a strong link to the swinging big band tradition.

The way he develops ideas so patiently and satisfyingly is something generally more associated with classical music, and it’s real joy to hear in a big band context.

The Celebration Suite was originally written to feature Gerry Mulligan, but here features Scott Robinson on the solo baritone sax part. He was an inspired choice, sounding incredibly rich and muscular, and always seeming to know just when to swoop in and out of the texture.

John Hollenbeck on drums and Thorsten Benkenstein on lead trumpet are also phenomenal throughout. Thorsten has an almost symphonic quality to his lead playing, which sounds so broad and well supported.

Ella Fitzgerald & Count Basie – Ella & Basie!

This is right up there with the best vocal big band albums of all time. It seems stupidly obvious to talk about how great Ella and the Count Basie Orchestra sound, there’s just so much joy and humanity throughout. The arrangements by Quincy Jones are a total masterclass in big band writing and are so well balanced.

I love how the album starts very quietly and intimately before the full big band crashes in out of nowhere around the thirty second mark. In our current era of shuffling randomly between albums, that entry must often give people a big fright!

For more information visit Sean’s website.

Find details and tickets for the concert at the Vortex here.

Click here to read our review of Confluence by Sean Gibbs.