Good Vibes: A Life in Jazz

Joel Roberts By

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Good Vibes: A Life in Jazz
Terry Gibbs with Cary Ginell
Scarecrow Press
ISBN: 0810845865

Terry Gibbs' style as a storyteller is a lot like his style as one of the top vibes players in jazz history – spirited, frenetic, quirky and highly entertaining. And after nearly 70 years of performing, with everyone from Tommy Dorsey to Charlie Parker, Gibbs has a lot of stories to tell, many of them memorable, most of them hilarious.

A small, tough Jewish kid from the streets of Brooklyn, Gibbs started playing professionally at age 12. While on leave from the Army during World War II, he got wind of a strange music brewing in New York called bebop. Gibbs says he was so mesmerized by the new sound that he spent two solid weeks watching Bird and Dizzy on 52nd Street without once going home to sleep. He later spent about "three minutes" with Tommy Dorsey's Orchestra, which he quit because it played music he says sounded "eighty years old," and enjoyed more meaningful stints with Buddy Rich, Woody Hermann and Benny Goodman. A frequent poll winner, he led his own group, the so-called "Dream Band," in Los Angeles in the late '50s, before settling comfortably into a decade of TV work with jazz-loving talk-show host Steve Allen, among others. Still active as he nears 80, Gibbs just this year released a well-received tribute to fellow vibes great Lionel Hampton.

Gibbs' lighthearted autobiography, co-written with Cary Ginell, effectively captures his fast-talking, wisecracking, enormously good-natured personality; he even has nice things to say about Buddy Rich and Benny Goodman! Expect plenty of bad jokes, Yiddish-isms, and anecdotes that don't always have a point. But never mind. Gibbs is one of the good guys in jazz, and his story's a good one, too.


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