It's albums like this that make certain people rant about the "good ol' days."
Vibraphonist Terry Gibbs incredibly still sounds lively and fresh on his 65th album, 52nd And Broadway: Songs Of The Bebop Era , frequently giving new tempos and arrangements to standards from the period. But this isn't modern music with a bebop accent, it's the real deal with a healthy dose of modern spice.
I put this in the CD player without looking at the linear notes, but that changed in a hurry when I needed to make sure that, yes, a bossa nova version of "'Round Midnight" opens the album. After that it's hard to take anything for granted.
Gibbs, 80, continues to play with energy that defies the laws of nature, and he brings in a group of old and new talents well-suited for keeping pace. Not everyone is hitting all of the time, but when they dotry following the progressions on the ultra-hyper "Salt Peanuts"it's as good as any bebop in recent years.
Some of Gibbs' runs deliver more verbiage than direction, but are in top form when he takes the occasional proverbial breath. He sets saxophonist James Moody and pianist Tom Rainier up with a scorching blend of phrases and runs on "Cherokee." He scales back the notes and steps up the variety on a mid-tempo variation of his famed "Night In Tunisia," which also features trumpet player Nicholas Payton taking a rather impressive step back to the Gillespie days. Gibbs slows down on "If You Could See Me Now" and "Lover Man," where Sam Most's breathy flute solos are at their best.
It's efforts like those that allow him and Most to get away with some scat vocal improvisations on "Lemon Drop" and not have it sound overly contrived or tacky.
Bassist Dave Carpenter and drummer Jeff Hamilton are a solid rhythm section, but they don't have the presence of the lead players. The strings, more cloying than satisfying on too many albums, are sharply defined and actually provide a decent voice of their own for the most part.
Great as it is to have young players like Payton bringing new and legitimately artistic styles to the jazz arena, the work of traditional masters still on their game retains an irresistible element of seduction. And 52nd And Broadway is definitely not an album for the modern multi-tasking crowd; there's no point putting this on unless you're willing to set aside the dinner plates and newspapers and give it the attention it properly deserves.
'Round Midnight; Jumping With Symphony Sid; Lemon Drop; If You Could See Me
Now; Groovin' High;
Cherokee; Night In Tunisia; Lover Man; Salt Peanuts; Perdido; Doxy; Bopstacle
Terry Gibbs, vibes; Tom Ranier, piano; Dave Carpenter, bass; Jeff Hamilton, drums;
saxophone; Nicholas Payton, trumpet; Sam Most, flute