Album review

Sean Gibbs – ‘Confluence’

Sean Gibbs – Confluence
(Ubuntu Music. UBU0124. CD Review by Patrick Hadfield)

Confluence is trumpeter Sean Gibbs‘ second album for Ubuntu. He’s joined by sixteen musicians. Gibbs wrote the six tunes specifically with these musicians in mind, which evidently makes the most of his experience with them: he’s been playing with several of them for many years as part of the Scottish National Jazz Orchestra and its feeder band, the Tommy Smith Youth Jazz Orchestra.

His arrangements balance the various sections well, whether the brass and saxes are in unison or cutting across each other. He utilises a lot of punchy dynamics in the faster pieces, such as the lively, downright funky Gibb It Some More and the swinging Juggling Act. On the slower, more moody numbers such as Tomorrow Will Come, there are some lovely touches that sound genuinely Ellingtonian.

Gibbs’ tunes span emotions, moving from melancholy to joyous. His writing leaves a lot of space for the soloists. They aren’t identifed on each track, but that doesn’t diminish their contributions. There are several gutsy saxophone solos, and the trombones provide a soulful richness.

Gibbs’ own trumpet playing is excellent. His solos have a mournful tone on the slower, more introspective numbers.

The rhythm section – the powerhouse of any big band – work really hard and keep things moving along. Rob Brockway, on piano, takes a lovely solo in Juggling Act as well as adding nuance in his accompaniment. Drummer Jay Davis has a lovely touch, keeping it subtle except on those few passages that call for him to bash it out to be heard over the force of the whole band. Calum Gourlay‘s bass playing keeps the whole band swinging along.

The closing track, Hungover Moments of Clarity, is a tour de force, from the soft opening and the plaintiff sax solo which follows it through to the powerful section featuring the whole band giving it their all. If only all hangovers were this good.

Patrick Hadfield lives in Edinburgh, occasionally takes photographs, and sometimes blogs at On the Beat. Twitter: @patrickhadfield, Mastodon:

LINK: Confluence is available from BandCamp

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