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Terry Gibbs: 52nd & Broadway: Songs of the Bebop Era

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Yes, it is 2004, but vibraphonist Terry Gibbs doesn't know that, and it is difficult to discern any difference between his playing today and forty years ago. When you're eighty years of age and working with two mallets, the motor neurons have a tendency to slow you down, but that certainly is not apparent here. On his 65th album, Gibbs is full of the lively spirit that has been a trademark; and if you recall him trading vibes choruses with Dinah Washington, in that visually stunning segment on the Jazz For A Summer's Day film from 1959, you won't be too surprised.

Armed with eleven bebop standards and one original, plus a high priced front line consisting of James Moody, Nicholas Payton and Sam Most, Gibbs revisits some of the bebop warhorses of yesteryear. The album begins with a bossa version of "Round Midnight" and soon includes a scatting duet with flutist Sam Most, on George Wallington's "Lemon Drop," which may recall the Woody Herman version for you. Most is given the melody line on both "If You Could See Me Now" and "Lover Man" and makes the most (no pun) of it. Moody and Payton are up to the demands of the bebop playing and, in addition to their individual solos, the two sound great trading lines with Gibbs in the opening numbers. Dizzy Gillespie's anthem "Night in Tunisia" is taken at a surprisingly mid-tempo pace, and it serves as an effective way of placing more attention to the melody.

My only reservation on the album is the use of a string section. It works and it also doesn't work! On the ballads, the strings sound like a synthesizer special effect and give the songs a cheesy flavor. However, on the flag-wavers, their use recalls the "Bird with Strings" sessions, where the listener is caught up in the excitement of the fusion of the two elements.

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