Mike Gibbs’ 85th Birthday Celebration – Trinity Laban Jazz Orchestra conducted by Josephine Davies
(Vortex, EFG London Jazz Festival, 14 November 2022. Second house. Live Review by Patrick Hadfield)
In four concerts over two nights, musicians from Trinity Laban and guests paid tribute to composer and arranger Mike Gibbs, in honour of his eighty fifth-birthday last September. Gibbs a career in music spanning well over fifty years, so there is a wealth of material to choose from.
The Trinity Laban Jazz Orchestra had brought in of some highly experienced top musicians from the London scene; the sax section included Tom Challenger and Julian Siegel, the trumpets featured Tom Walsh and the bass trombonist was Richard Henry. Lewis Wright was on vibes, Hans Koller on piano plus the irrepressible, irreplaceable Gene Calderazzo on drums. The other twelve members of the band were students from the Trinity Laban jazz programme.
From the very start, a slow number called “I’ll Look Around”, the lush arrangements bring a smile to one’s face that continued throughout the show. With the second piece, Ornette Coleman’s “Ramblin'”, came the realisation that the band were smashing it. Hans Koller and piano and Lewis Wright took great solos – the vibes in particular sounded magical as their sound rang out in the small space.
The younger musicians in the band clearly held their own. Kobe Heath Ngugi on bass kept the swing groove flowing whilst Joseph Leighton‘s guitar created subtle textures beneath the other players. There were fine solos by trumpeter Alex Polack, Matt Lambert on tenor, and James Wade-Sired’s trombone.
Gene Calderazzo is most familiar in a small band setting, but he excelled at propelling the band in the faster sections and keeping the swing going in the slower ballads. Tom Challenger and Julian Siegel both played some searing solos on alto and tenor respectively, and Siegel also provided some moody bass clarinet.
The was a real sense of community and celebration throughout the show. Gibbs, who was sitting in the audience, was greeted as people gathered to pay tribute. After the final number – a luscious rendering of “Round Midnight” – Gibbs was brought to the front of the audience and presented with a sparkling birthday cake as the band launched into “Happy Birthday”.
Composer/arranger – Mike Gibbs
Conductor – Josephine Davies
Saxes – Tom Challenger; Talfan Jenkins; Julian Siegel; Matthew Lambert
Trumpets – Tom Walsh; Josh Short; Alex Polack; Christie Smith; Billy Rowlatt
Trombones – Matt Seddon; James Wade-Sired; Olivia Hughes; Richard Henry
Vibes – Lewis Wright
Guitar – Joseph Leighton
Piano – Hans Koller
Bass – Kobe Heath Ngugi
Drums – Gene Calderazzo
Categories: Live review