Birthday Greetings

Birthday Greetings for Michael Gibbs at 85

We invited colleagues, friends and fans to wish Michael Gibbs a happy 85th birthday today, Sunday 25 September 2022. The response has been wonderful, heart-warming, even slightly overwhelming:

Michael Gibbs, Cheltenham Jazz Festival 2017. Photo credit: John Watson/

Iain Ballamy: Mr Gibbs! – I have many things to thank you for in my life both musically (Angel studios 1993 whilst recording your album ‘By the way’) and as a kind and generous human being (you literally handed me the keys to your apartment in Manhattan when I came to stay in New York!)   But above all, the deep bond and understanding we formed when we both suffered the profound loss of our loved ones still gives me strength today. Happy birthday (in 11/8 obviously!)  Best, Iain

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Richie Beirach: Happy 85 brother !!  First time I heard your name was when I heard your masterpiece tune SWEET RAIN on stan getzes recording of the same name in 1967 ,I said DAMN ! That’s a mofo GENIUS COMPOSITION !!the arching soaring melody the beautiful unusual chord progression ,well ,,that tune was just the beginning of my admiration and respect for you ,then when we finally worked together on that NDR project with lieb a few years ago  when you arranged some our tunes and yours I KNEW that my early impressions of you and your wonderful musicianship were completely true !!,,And in the lobby of that great hotel in Hamburg during our week of rehearsals  you showed me the intricacies and pleasures of great scotch ,,TALISKER if my memory serves me correctly. Happy bday mike ! I raise my glass of TALISKER TO YOU !! Love  Richie Beirach


Lee Berk – former President of Berklee College, after whom the college was named, Susan Berk, Michael Gibbs. Valencia Spain.

Lee and Susan Berk: Dear Mike, Your 1975 Chrome Waterfall Orchestra concert was our first date and look what happened, 47 years later and counting.  We’re so happy that you are still doing a different kind of swinging! We wish you many more happy birthdays! Happy 85th and fond regards, Lee and Susan

Gary Burton: Hi Michael! We’ve been friends and collaborators for, wait — I had to check the calendar — 62 years! Amazing, huh? I love it when you tell me about your upcoming projects and how much you enjoy sharing your music with other musicians and the jazz fans. Happy birthday!!! – Cheers, Gary Burton

Jack DeJohnette: Happy Birthday Mike. Thank you for your great musical contributions to this world, it is a far better place for them.  Thinking back on the times we had together, hanging out with the families, some great and some shared sadness and here we still are. Lydia and I have many loving memories of our times together and we send you much love always. Jack 

Iain Dixon: The first time I worked with Mike Gibbs I was shaking in my boots.  It came time for me to play a solo and within 2 bars he stopped the band and said, “No Iain, I need more energy”. I was now petrified beyond belief.  We played again, and I played with what I thought was more energy. Same thing: “No Iain, I need more energy”. My teeth were now chattering. 

We played again, and I played with what I thought was more energy. Same thing: “No Iain, I need more energy”. I was now close to passing out with stress.  So we played again, and I went F***ING BALLISTIC!!!   He smiled and shouted, “Yes Iain”.  Happy birthday, Mike. Lots of love. 

Mike Gibbs (R) with Bill Frisell and the BBC SO. Barbican, 2009.
Photo credit: Andy Sheppard/ Lowlight Photo

Tony Dudley-Evans: I have so many happy memories of celebrating various key birthdays for Mike Gibbs with concerts in Birmingham.  They were always with top class groups playing Mike’s wonderful music, and for me Mike Gibbs remains one of the most brilliant jazz composers.  Happy Birthday, Mike!

Axel Dürr: Lieber Michael, Herzlichen Glückwunsch! Ich wünsche Dir das Allerbeste für die kommende Zeit. Es war immer ein großes Vergnügen, mit dir zu arbeiten. Du warst und bist einer der Lieblings-Arrangeure und Dirigenten der NDR Bigband. Deine Musik überrascht immer und ist voll strahlender Schönheit. Die Band und ich schätzen dich als großartigen Musiker und Menschen. Und Du hast Spuren hinterlassen und Maßstäbe gesetzt. Alles Gute für die Zukunft.

(Dear Michael, congratulations! I want to wish you all the very best. It was always a great pleasure to work with you. You were –  and are – one of the favourite arrangers and conductors of the NDR Bigband. Your music constantly brings surprises and is full of radiant beauty. The band and I appreciate you as a wonderful musician and a truly great person. You have left your mark and you have set the standard. All the best for the future.)

Bill Frisell, Michael Gibbs and Gary Burton in discussion in 2017. Still from Berklee Intervals video.

Mark Egan: Happy Birthday Mike! Hope all is well with you. ❤️

Steve Feigenbaum: I had occasion to speak to Mike 2-3 months ago. He was busy telling me how old he is and how he can’t work anymore, while also telling me about all the new projects he was working on! 😉 Happy Birthday, Mike! It’s been a pleasure knowing and working with you! Here’s to many more happy birthdays.

John Fordham: Gentleness, reticence, an alertness to quiet persuasion that could make the smallest sounds glow, coupled with an unerring instinct for the moment to unleash a riotously celebratory fanfare – these have always seemed to me to be Michael Gibbs’ quintessential qualities, as a unique artist, and a generous human being too. Interviewing him for Time Out as a nerdy 23 year-old bebop obsessive in 1971, I also discovered something about his vision of the new freethinking fusions unfolding around us at the time. Gibbs observed that day, that though his roots were in jazz, his listening was as likely to embrace ‘Debussy, or Messiaen, or Crosby Stills and Nash, or The Band.’ His lifelong openness has liberated the best improvisers, and liberated all his listeners. Happy 85th, Mike.

Bruce Gertz : I was one of the lucky Berklee students of the 1970’s that had the opportunity to study with Mike Gibbs.  One night I was sitting next to Mike at the Jazz Workshop in Boston listening to the Dave Holland group with Sam Rivers and Anthony Braxton. I found Anthony’s playing to be very unusual.  After the first set, Mike was speaking to Anthony nearby and I was curious.  When he came back, Mike looked at me and said Anthony told him he was trying to play when he couldn’t hear anything.  I will always remember that.  Later Mike played trombone on a few performances I was also part of.  We remained friends on facebook and I still feel his support. HAPPY BIRTHDAY TO MIKE! A great person and composer. 

Pablo Held: Happy Birthday dearest Mike! 85? I don’t believe it! To me you have the curiousity, passion and excitement of a little kid. I look to you when I need a reminder what it means to be in love with music. Thank you for all the marvelous sounds you have given us. Here’s to many more! Love, Pablo

Danny Gottlieb: Hi Mike. Ti let me know it’s your 85th Birthday.  I wanted to send you a Happy Birthday.  I love you so much; you and the music that you’ve given us has been just so special.  I just got out here with my wife to Colorado.  We’re taking a little vacation for a couple of days. It’s so beautiful here, it made me think of you! Have a great, great Birthday and many, MANY more.

Michael Gibbs, Royal Birmingham Conservatoire, 2018, Photo credit: John Watson/

Chris Hunter: HI MIKE incredible to have been involved in some fantastic projects with you over the last 40years! I especially remember though the very first New York Thanksgiving you invited me to with your family in Brooklyn circa 1983. It was a great start to my own adventures in the US and made me feel wonderfully at home in New York. HAPPY BIRTHDAY, CHRIS

Michael Janisch: Dear Mike, Happy Birthday! I hope you have a great day, it’s been a complete honor and privilege to get to know you and work with you as both a musician and via my label, over the years. Big Love, Michael.

Mike Gibbs. Cheltenham Jazz Festival 2013. Photo credit Tim Dickeson

Christof Lauer: Lieber Michael, wann immer du das Studio oder die Bühne betreten hast, war das in meiner Zeit bei der NDR Bigband ein musikalischer Höhepunkt. Deine Suche nach Klängen und Atmosphären, deine Kompositionen und Arrangements, haben mich immer inspiriert und inspirieren mich heute noch. Oft höre ich Aufnahmen die wir gemacht haben, bewundere deine Kreativität, und denke wie einmalig deine Musik ist. Lieber Michel, zu deinem Geburtstag wünsche ich dir von ganzem Herzen alles erdenklich Gute. In der Hoffnung, dass wir irgendwann noch mal zusammenarbeiten können, grüßt dich von herzlichst, Christof Lauer

(Dear Michael, whenever you walked into the studio or onto the stage during my time with the NDR Big Band, it was always a musical highpoint. Your search for sounds and atmospheres, your compositions and arrangements, have always always inspired me and still inspire me today. I often listen to the recordings we made, and am full of wonder at your creativity, at how unique your music is. Dear Michael, on your birthday I wish you all the very best from the bottom of my heart. In the hope that we can work together again some time, I send you my warmest greetings, Christof Lauer)

Michael A.  Levine: It’s been nearly half a century since you introduced me to both the brilliance of Messiaen and Mantovani in the same class. The former was not unexpected in the hip halls of Berklee, but the later was almost a sacrilege. “Listen to his string writing,” you said. Not only was it solid advice, but it made me aware of how I was being limited by my prejudices and assumptions. That willingness to accept a good idea no matter what its source is something I have aspired to ever since. Thank you for your philosophical wisdom as well as your musical genius. Happy Birthday.

Dave Liebman: Mike could make a nursery rhyme palpable!! His skills in any jazz idiom are classic….and a hell of a great personality.

L-R: Michael Gibbs, Siggi Loch, Joachim Kühn, Albert Mangelsdorff 1994 “Europeana”. Photo courtesy of Siggi Loch

Siggi Loch: To Michael Gibbs I owe one of the most important productions of my life: Europeana, recorded in 1994, together with the NDR Radiophilharmonie and outstanding soloists, above all pianist Joachim Kühn. Through Europeana, a shared dream of Michael’s and mine came true: Putting the rich heritage of the European musical tradition into a symphonic setting, combined with the freedom of jazz. And to this day I am certain that no other composer, arranger and conductor could have fulfilled this demanding task better than Michael Gibbs. His openness and comprehensive knowledge of the most diverse musical styles, from jazz and classical to pop and film music, and his imaginative re-imagination of the wide-ranging material are unparalleled. And they underpin, also to this day, his exceptional position as one of the very greats in his field. Happy birthday, dear Michael, Siggi

Henry Lowther: Mike Gibbs has certainly been one of the most important musical figures in my long life in music and over the years he has undoubtedly provided me with some of my most significant musical moments. I was fortunate to have played on his first ever big band gig in England. This was at Lancaster University in 1969 and I consider myself to have been lucky to have been able on many occasions since to play Mike’s wonderful and original music, most recently on tour in 2017. One gig in particular stands out in my memory and this was in Canterbury Cathedral in 1970 celebrating its 800th Centenary. The performance of Mike’s piece Canticle was astonishing and pure magic utterly like anything else. Long live, Mike, and I wish you a very happy Birthday! 

Mike Gibbs. Barbican 2009. Photo credit: Andy Sheppard/ Lowlight Photo

David Mash: Dear Mike, I wish you the happiest of birthdays as you begin your 86th journey around the sun! You and your music changed my life forever, and I will never forget the happy times we spent hanging out in Boston. Here’s to many many more!”

Ra Kalam Bob Moses : B’EARTHDAY MASSAGE FOR MICHAEL GIBBS: Hu Maestro Miguel Gibbzalez . Hopi B’earthday !!!!!! Ochenta y cinco. WOW ! Hard to bereave. Tu es muy viejo, but the child spirit, full of vigor, joy and enthusiasm still burns strong in you. I believe we first met in 1970 when I was in London recording with Compost. You are one of the rare people who felt like family from the the first moment. It was a great blessing to have played on several of your magical recordings and to have toured with your stellar English big band. Also muchos gracias for your contributions to some of my large group recordings.  I love you now and forever. Hope to see you in Malaga late Nov./early Dec. Love Always Hu Ra Kalam Bob Moses

Ti  (Sirabhorn) Muntarbhorn:  During the early days of Berklee(Spring, 1975), I recall Pat Metheny mentioning how he wished to introduce me to The Gibbs and especially for me to meet The … Gibb-lets!   Yes, that’s what Pat would call the two little Gibbs gals.  From that moment on, The Gibbs became family to this lone Thai gal, a humble jazz guitar major at the College.  Family you shall always be.  With loads of LUV, “Always and Forever” (quoting a Metheny Ballad).

Richard Niles: I am so grateful to have been able to study with Mike Gibbs when he came to teach at Berklee – and to become friends with him and his family – and to have played in his “Only Chrome Waterfall Orchestra” (my name!) – and to have felt the joy of his fearless, childlike, innovative, spirit – and to have had his generous help when I was in trouble – and to have written a chapter dedicated to him in my book “The Invisible Artist” – and to have interviewed him for the BBC and my YouTube playlist “Radio Richard”. I am so grateful because Mike Gibbs is impossible not to love. He is our birthday present.

Adam Nussbaum: Hey Mike,  Nussbaum here. Just want to say it’s always a treat to get to make music with you. you are a true treasure. Wishing you a very happy 85th birthday! Looking forward to our next time together.  Big hugs, Adam

Jim Odgren: Mike Gibbs’ music is a combination of many wonderful and diverse elements – joyousness, brilliance, creativity, elegance, power, spirited courageousness, romanticism, and more. I have been very lucky indeed to have played his music with and for Mike in a variety of settings. In every instance, I was amazed by Mike’s great musicianship and his respectful encouragement that always brought out the best in each of the musicians as we played.  Happy Birthday, Mike! Keep writing and performing your terrific music!

Tiger Okoshi: Happy Birthday, Mike!” It’s been a long time since I joined in “In The Public Interest” performance at the Carnegie Hall in 1974 with Gary Burton, sharing the concert with Bill Evans trio… I learned so much from you, Thank you.

Chris Parker: Happy 85th Birthday, Mike! I, like the musical world generally, love your work as a composer, arranger & trombonist, but it’s our regular meetings to play squash up the road in Muswell Hill – basically excuses for two-hour discussions about jazz – that I miss most since you moved away from Wood Green. Many Happy Returns!


Michael Gibbs, Nicholas Pike. Recording Pike’s suite Master Harold and the Boys with the LSO at Abbey Road, 1985.
Photo courtesy of Nicholas Pike

Nicholas Pike: Mike! Your tireless encouragement, priceless mentoring and knowing just the right moment to drop the training wheels!  I am eternally grateful.

Jeremy Price: Dear Mike. Happy Birthday! Champagne? You are our most treasured jazz orchestrator and arranger to the stars and your compositions never fail to leave me with an endorphin-rich sensory overload. Bliss! Thank you! It has always been such a great pleasure whenever I have had the privilege to be around you and your music in various roles over the years. Looking forward to welcoming you to Royal Birmingham Conservatoire and Eastside Jazz Club again soon. Corks will be popping. Have a great day! xx

Ed Puddick: Dear Mike – It’s an honour to have been part of the most recent twenty of your eight-five years. I don’t want to make you feel old, but that’s half my life! Happy Birthday!! Ed

Nick Smart: Dearest Mike! Wishing you a truly happy birthday on this special day. Thank you, as ever, for all the musical gifts you have shared with us over so many years – each one sounds as fresh as the day you thought of it! It has been a genuine privilege to have shared in so many musical moments with you and I look forward to the next ones! Love from Nick Smart and all at the Academy. X

Tommy Smith: Greetings to you, a composer of profound depth and personal style, on celebrating your golden years. While at Berklee, we frequently played your luminous orchestrations in the Recording Band, and when I joined Gary Burton’s Group in 1985, tales about you and your music were always ubiquitous, but it wasn’t until 2009 that I had the opportunity and honour to commission you for the Scottish National Jazz Orchestra that ironically featured my old boss, Gary Burton, and then there was Hyperborean and Independency IV for an ECM recording featuring new boss, Arild Andersen. Your unique passion for music has always been a feast for the senses, enriching the lives of everyone, especially Europeana – Jazzphony No. 1. Happy 85th birthday! Best, Tommy.

Claus Stoetter: Dear Michael, I have here the honor and the pleasure to congratulate you on your 85th birthday, which I do with all my heart! I would like to thank you for everything that you have given me and that I have experienced through you. Thank you for your great tones and sounds, which you only put down on paper when you have really heard and lived through them, which makes it easy to play them because they contain so much music, soul and meaning. And I can tell you that you are the most charming person I know and that you will always be my idol! Madly in love, your Claus Stoetter.

Stan Sulzmann: I’ve been extremely fortunate through a series of happy opportunities to have found myself playing for Mike, mainly in the 70/80s. He is still one of my all time favourite Jazz composers. The early bands were so much fun and of their time musically. A very Happy Birthday to a great guy!

Cheltenham Jazz Festival 2013. Photo credit Tim Dickeson

Steve Swallow and Carla Bley: Dear Mike,   Carla and I agree that you’re, simply put, the best.  You coerce more music out of a simple triad or – even more remarkable – a single note, than anyone.  Your music has got persistently younger over the years; your best work lies ahead.  Go to it.  Steve (Carla too!)

Art Themen: Congratulations on reaching the big 8-5 Michael. I have fond memories of playing the fabulous suite you wrote nearly 20 years ago at the much lamented Appleby Jazz Festival. Your gentle modesty, which is an example to us all, has not been affected by your stellar career.

Colin Towns: Dear Mike, Congratulations. When I was  a very young teenager, I managed to buy your first album – Michael Gibbs, which had an incredible line-up and was truly a  wonderful experience that has never lost its magic.  Eventually, I was privileged to be able to finance your  Nonsequence. CD. which we recorded in Hamburg and New York and was a personal landmark in my musical life. You also introduced me to the Village Vanguard which was a place I’d dreamt of for years.  So-thank you for your very special music.

Maarten Van Rousselt: A very happy birthday to you Mr Gibbs! Thanks you for all the music and your wonderful compositions. They are a precious gift to the world.

John Watson: It has been a privilege to be present in the role of photographer at many rehearsals and concerts where Michael Gibbs has been directing orchestras: at the EFG London Jazz Festival (in rehearsal at the BBC Maida Vale studios and in concert at the Barbican), at the Cheltenham Jazz Festival, the Scarborough Jazz Festival, and in Birmingham at the Triangle Arts Centre, the CBSO Centre and the Royal Birmingham Conservatoire. While taking pictures at the rehearsals, I’ve had the joy of hearing his music being shaped in detail. For me, Michael is the greatest composer and arranger since Gil Evans. Thank you for such great music!

L-R: Michael Gibbs, Bill Frisell, John L. Walters, Synchro Sound, Boston, summer 1988…
“discussing how best to end ‘Mopsus’ ” Photo courtesy of John L. Walters

John L. Walters: Mike Gibbs has always had a gift for friendship – a great asset for a composer. Duke Ellington once said that to write for a musician, you should know how they played poker. Mike has an instinct for what makes others tick, whether they be fellow musician, film-maker, concert promoter, journalist or performer in one of his fabulously talented bands. I met Mike when I was a teenage student. Later, for a while, I became his record producer. Our friendship produced Big Music (1988), an album packed with grooves, melodies, riffs, dense scoring and wonderful solos and textures from (amongst many) Bill Frisell, whose bond with Mike goes deep. See also the 2022 LJN article ‘Ten Mike Gibbs tracks I can’t do without’,

With sincerest thanks to all contributors and photographers, and to Rob Adams, Charlie Rees, Beatrice Gamza, Christof Lauer, and above all Ti (Sirabhorn) Muntarbhorn .

Categories: Birthday Greetings

7 replies »

  1. A great composed and arranger as
    shown by the tributes mentioned
    here. But most importantly a lovely
    mild humble man who I was privileged to work with. Love to
    Mike. Peter Eden

  2. I would love to have Mike write a string arrangement for a piece of mine. It’s always been a dream of mine to collaborate with Mike in some musical fashion and he’s always been an inspiration to me as a composer. With love, Bruce

  3. Michael Gibbs has written:

    Re responses to LJN’s request for birthday wishes for my 85th yesterday – the LJN comment that the response has been ‘wonderful, heartwarming, even slightly overwhelming’ – this has to be the understatement of the century, any century.

    I’m so amazed, flabbergasted, touched to tears, and so very grateful to everyone – you wrote such kind things.

    All those years ago, it was my nightly listening to Willis Conover’s Voice of America
    Jazz programme to the American troops in Europe, when one night I heard Bunk Johnson’s band play “When The Saints” – and the pure collective joy that made them instinctively play just one more extra chorus ‘cause they’d got the magic happening, – Oh! Boy – that did it for me.

    But then, Billie Holiday came on, sang “Don’t Explain” – Oh! Jeez, so sad, so connected to the core of human feeling, my future was determined for me at that moment – I abandoned my university chemistry studies – this music was now the only future I could devote myself to.

    And now you all send these so touching words – and I was only doing what I had to, there was no choice to make.

    Thank you so so very much.


  4. Hi Ti,

    Many congrats to you for getting the train rolling on Michael’s 85th…now we’re the same age! I grew up with the name and all he and Berklee were doing in mentoring students and having great jazz ensembles. Michael was way ahead of his time in jazz education!

    The closest we ever got to meeting each other was in the early 80s when David Mash and I were the only 2 folks in the US who were involved in developing the potential of the computer in jazz education. David retired from Berklee as Senior Vice President for Innovation, Strategy and Technology.

    Michael’s contribution in helping lay the framework of jazz education was significant. Not sure what would have happened to jazz education had Berklee and the
    great faculty, like Michael and others, not been around.

    Gene Aitken

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