"92 Years Young." Sometimes that's an exaggeration. On the other hand, when applied to vibraphonist Terry Gibbs it may well be an understatement. Gibbs was indeed a mere six months shy of his ninety-second birthday when "Jammin' at the Gibbs House" was recorded in his living room in April 2016. Close your eyes, however, and it's the 1940s again, and Gibbs is jammin' with Woody Herman
's Second Herd, or the '50s, and he's presiding over his high-powered Dream Band in Los Angeles. In other words, as people often reassure nonagenarians, he "hasn't changed a bit." In this case, however, it's more truism than solace. While Gibbs has no doubt changed a bit, as has everyone his age, that bit is wholly imperceptible to the human ear.
To put it another way, Gibbs continues to play, even in "retirement," with the energy and enthusiasm of a teenager auditioning for his first gig. Yes, Gibbs had been sequestered for more than a year, and had to be coaxed by Neal Weiss at Whaling City Sound to take vibes in hand for a "comeback" recording. When at last Gibbs agreed, his provisos were that no travel would be involved, and that the event would be akin to a good old-fashioned jam session in which he would suggest a song and the others would either agree or turn thumbs down. Son Gerry Gibbs
helped turn Terry's living room into a recording studio, pianist John Campbell
and bassist Mike Gurrola
were invited on board to make it a quartet, and four days were set aside during which thirty-one songs were recorded and fifteen chosen (with no second takes or playbacks).
The session opens with the flag-waver "Back Home in Indiana" and closes with another, the Terry Gibbs original "Here It Is." In between, tempos are for the most part more moderate with half a dozen opulent ballads brightening the landscape. Billy Strayhorn
is represented with "Take the 'A' Train," Lionel Hampton
with "Blues for Hamp," Charlie Parker
with "Yardbird Suite." After the last note of "Here It Is" has faded, Terry says, "Let's go home," to which Gerry replies, "You are
Gerry, who no doubt learned long ago to stay out of his dad's way, plays with brushes as often as sticks (and is outstanding on either), while Campbell proves time and again what a superlative player he is and Gurrola keeps the rhythm sure and steady. In the liner notes, Terry writes, "If you can't find anything good to say about the CD, give it to your friend." Sorry, Terry; this one isn't going anywhere. It's a twenty-four carat keeper.