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Michael Gibbs With The Gary Burton Quartet: Festival 69

Roger Farbey By

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On the first two discs of this previously unreleased three CD set, recorded at a single concert on 20th November 1969, the music is regularly punctuated by Gary Burton's announcement tracks, which are not always easily intelligible. However, his announcement preceding Steve Swallow's joyously rousing "Portsmouth Configurations" (actually "Portsmouth Figurations," from the 1967 RCA studio album Duster) is clear enough to discern that it features drummer Bill Goodwin, but Burton doesn't mention, as implied on the inner sleeve annotations, the addition of a big band on that track, because there isn't one here. But even without a big band, (which joins Burton's group on the second CD), the quartet alone is certainly dynamic enough. Another track from Duster, "General Mojo's Well Laid Plan," is noticeably less-restrained and more explosively visceral than the original.

Gibbs and Burton met and became friends when studying at Berklee College of Music in the early 1960s, and both were students of trumpeter Herb Pomeroy. Burton's choice of numbers on the first and second CDs reflects his on-going fascination with Mike Gibbs's compositions. On the quartet CD, "Ballet" and "And On The Third Day," both by Gibbs, are afforded sublimely eloquent renditions. On CD2, Burton's quartet, augmented by the British big band, robustly tackles "Tanglewood '63," "Sojourn/June The 15th 1967" and "Nowhere," again, all penned by Gibbs.

CD 3 recorded at Lancaster University in February 1969 represents a historic date for Gibbs by dint of the inclusion of Jack Bruce on bass guitar. Gibbs and Bruce had previously worked together in the New Jazz Orchestra but on this occasion Bruce, newly departed from the illustrious Cream, invested widespread interest in this jazz gig, and it was thus that the concert effectively put Gibbs on the map. Bruce's bass work is satisfyingly dominant throughout (especially his muscular bass solo on "Some Echoes, Some Shadows"). John Marshall's drumming is typically brilliant and the big band line-up is a classic one featuring some of the brightest stars in the British jazz firmament. John Surman, for example, is heard on soprano saxophone on the elegant "Sweet Rain," and on "Fly Time Fly (Sigh)" he gives a typically coruscating solo, again on soprano. Surman moves to baritone sax and is joined by Mike Osborne and Alan Skidmore for some wildly unbridled collective soloing on "And On The Third Day," anticipating their subsequent team-up in S.O.S.

This is an impressive archival box set, embellished with a 24 page booklet. The project is overseen by John McLaughlin biographer and British jazz expert Colin Harper. The sound quality on the first two CDs is less than ideal, however the performances are of such a high standard that this drawback is effectively ameliorated. On the Lancaster set the sound quality is appreciably better. That said, this remains a vital piece of jazz history and the very first recorded evidence of a collaboration between Burton and Gibbs, five years before their joint album In The Public Interest (Polydor, 1974), gallingly still awaiting a CD reissue. If nothing else, this set proves beyond any doubt Gibbs's incredible talent for composing sophisticated and memorable tunes and Burton's gift for magically interpreting them. But it's very much more than that.

Track Listing: CD 1: [Festival ’69: Live At Whitla Hall, Belfast]: General Mojo’s Well Laid Plan; Announcement; Arise, Her Eyes; Announcement; Ballet; Announcement; And On The Third Day; Chega De Saudade; Announcement; Portsmouth Configurations; Announcement. CD 2: [Festival’ 69: Live At Whitla Hall, Belfast]: Announcement; Tanglewood ’63; Sojourn / June The 15th 1967; Walter L; Nowhere; Announcement; Doin’ The Pig. CD 3: [Lancaster ‘69 Live At Lancaster University]: Sweet Rain; Family Joy, Oh Boy!; Nowhere; Fly Time, Fly (Sigh); Feelings & Things / June The 15th 1967; And On The Third Day; Some Echoes, Some Shadows.

Personnel: CD1: Gary Burton: vibraphone; Dave Pritchard: guitar; Steve Swallow: bass guitar; Bill Goodwin: drums. CD 2: As CD 1 but add: Kenny Wheeler, Trevor Barber: trumpet; Tony Roberts; Alan Skidmore; Ray Warleigh: saxophones; Mike Gibbs, Chris Pyne: trombone; Chris Spedding: guitar. CD 3: John Surman: soprano saxophone, baritone saxophone; Mike Osborne: alto saxophone; Alan Skidmore: tenor saxophone; Henry Lowther, Rodney Teal: trumpet, flugelhorn; Mike Gibbs, Chris Pyne: trombone; Dick Hart: tuba; Frank Ricotti: vibraphone; Mike Pyne: piano; Phillip Lee: guitar; Jack Bruce: bass guitar; John Marshall: drums.

Title: Festival 69 | Year Released: 2018 | Record Label: Turtle Records

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