“No one wants to see a short Jew singing love songs—unless you’re Al Jolson. But rhythm songs? So long as you have a good time it’s OK.” —Terry Gibbs
Trust me, it’s more than just OK and you will have a good time, as vibraphone master Terry Gibbs sings, swings, and generally carouses his way through this tribute to Lionel Hampton. Featuring many of the classic songs usually associated with the late great King of the Vibes, including “Midnight Sun,” “Hey! Ba-Ba-Re-Bop,” and “Evil Gal Blues,” plus some new compositions by Gibbs himself – this record that will make any fan of classic swing smile.
“Ring Dem Bells,” a delicious Duke Ellington romp, takes a joyous trip into the past, with Gibbs’ vocals duetting with the band. Gibbs sings again on a gently nostalgic “Sunny Side of the Street,” and the infectious “Hey! Ba-Ba- Re-Bop,” making one wonder why it’s taken him over five decades years to be recorded as a vocalist again (his last vocal recording was on “Lemon Drop” with Woody Herman, 54 years ago).
Accompanying Gibbs is the quartet of Pete Christlieb on tenor sax, Anthony Wilson on guitar, Mike Melvoin on piano, Dave Carpenter on bass, and Jeff Hamilton on drums. Their playing is solid, especially on their solos.
The album also features guest stars Joey DeFrancesco on organ and bluesy singer Barbara Morrison. DeFrancesco makes his mark on the seriously cool “Blues for Hamp.” (Christlieb and Melvoin are especially strong on this track as well.) It’s a swinging and entirely appropriate tribute, and Gibbs has some of his best moments here with a great solo punctuated by his singing (humming? talking?) along with the groove.
Barbara Morrison’s take on “Evil Gal Blues” (a song first recorded by Dinah Washington) is sultry, soulful, and serious. It’s low-down blues, with Gibbs’ vibes acting as a sympathetic chorus to the powerful vocals and DeFrancesco chiming in to punctuate the “I’m no good for you” message.
Gibbs puts the mallets down in fact if not in spirit for “Two-Finger Boogie Shuffle,” a struttin’ piano duet with Melvoin. Gibbs plays it as advertised, with two fingers, and the result is a cool, syncopated stride that’s pure pleasure.
Whether it’s fast and furious (“The World is Waiting for Sunrise”) or easy and romantic (“Star Dust”), Gibbs and band handle it with class and style— just like Hampton did. I think he’d approve of From Me to You. It truly does capture Hamp’s musicality, swing, and, above all, joy. Bravo, Mr. Gibbs, I think you’ve succeeded in ensuring that your audience has almost as much fun as I’m sure you had recording this.
This review originally appeared in All About Jazz: San Francisco .
Track Listing: 1. Midnight Sun
2. Blues for Hamp
3. Ring Dem Bells
5. Gates Got Rhythm
6. On the Sunny Side of the Street
7. From Me to You
8. Red Top
9. Evil Gal Blues
10. Hey! Ba-Ba-Re-Bop
11. Two-Finger Boogie Shuffle
12. The World is Waiting for the Sunrise
13. Star Dust
14. Flying Home
Personnel: Terry Gibbs - Vibes, Dave Carpenter - Bass,
Michael Melvoin - Piano, Joey DeFrancesco - Organ,
Anthony Wilson - Guitar, Jeff Hamilton - Drums,
Barbara Morrison, Terry Gibbs - Vocals.