This eponymous album, made in 1954 for Mercury's EmArcy label, was Terry Gibbs' first recording under his own name and established him as the "wild man of the vibes" (he still is!). The nine tunes are a combination of Gibbs originals and swing era-classics, with only one ballad (Jimmy Van Heusen's "Imagination") to give the listener a chance to catch his breath before the next onslaught of all-out swing.
Gibbs' musical roots are more in the swing era than in bebop, and what's missing in harmonic sophistication and rhythmic complexity is more than compensated for by the unrelenting pace and visceral impact of the music. Frequently, Gibbs can be heard in the background shouting directions to the band or encouragement to his pianist. And when he moves to the piano keyboard himself for some two-fingered heated hammering, you practically want to offer him a towel.
The pianist is the obscure and little-recorded but extraordinarily talented Detroit musician, Terry Pollard, the first of three female pianists in a succession in Gibbs quartets throughout the 1950s and early 1960s. Her place would be taken by the still-active Pat Moran (now Patti Moran McCoy), whose chair would be filled in the 1960s by Alice McCleod (who would become Alice Coltrane). Without a doubt, Pollard swings the hardest, practically matching Gibbs with the percussive incisiveness of her attack, the relentless energy and drive of her phrasing, the climactic construction of her solos, and her facility for serendipitous musical quotes while in the heat of action.
Alice McCleod was the most fluent yet least swinging of the three, while Pat Moran (who once had a piano trio with bassist Scott LaFaro) falls somewhere in between, reflecting the "grooving" feel of a Red Garland or Gene Harris. On this first album, Gibbs also has a rhythm section willing to sacrifice and do whatever it takes for a collective swinging result: bassist Herman Wright, a cousin to jazz bassist Eugene Wright, and Nils- Bertil Dahlander (Bert Dale), an eccentric Swede who plays as though swing were the only thing.
Sadly, most of the albums by all three groups have never been reissued but are well worth hunting down on LP. This first session is the freshest, most vibrant and best-recorded by the quartet, with Gibbs' vibes sounding especially full and present. Still, the recording is worth listening to if only for Pollard, a major player who was inexplicably overlooked at the same time that pianists Marian McPartland, Barbara Carroll and Toshiko Akiyoshi were receiving considerable attention from both the jazz press and major labels.
Personnel: Terry Gibbs: vibes; Terry Pollard: piano; Herman Wright: bass; Nils-Bertil Dahlander: drums.