Michael Gibbs and the NDR Bigband – Back in the Days
(Cuneiform Records Rune 322. CD review by Chris Parker)
Culled from five sessions (1995–2003), this album sees composer/arranger Michael Gibbs conducting one of Europe’s most versatile and accomplished large ensembles, the NDR Bigband, through seven of his own tunes, three jazz standards and two pieces by Gibbs collaborators.
The Gibbs originals range from a live opener dedicated to Herb Pomeroy, ‘The Time Has Come’, through a gorgeous feature for alto saxophonist Fiete Felsch ‘With All Due Respect’ (which calls to mind Gibbs’s erstwhile use of UK-born altoist Chris Hunter), to ‘Mosher’, a tribute to Boston saxophonist/educator Jimmy Mosher, one of three selections featuring vibraphonist supreme Gary Burton.
All twelve tracks, though, whether originals or arresting arrangements of standards and classics such as Jimmy Van Heusen’s ‘Here’s That Rainy Day’, Billy Eckstine’s ‘I Want to Talk About You’ and – aparticular highlight – Monk’s ‘’Round Midnight, are packed with what one recent review termed ‘intriguing inner detail’ and another ‘the tactile sumptuousness of Gibbs’ sound’.
Those wanting a quick sample of same should look no further than the opening bars of the recording’s closing track, the Gibbs staple ‘Country Roads’, with their utterly distinctive harmony and their almost sculptural presence and gravitas, but the entire album, at once vigorous and lush, is a compelling showcase for one of the most original voices in contemporary jazz.