Jazz Vibes: Terry Gibbs vs. Roy Ayers

Greg Thomas By

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On the surface, vibraphonists Terry Gibbs and Roy Ayers seem quite different. Throughout his long career Gibbs has remained faithful to the Swing and bop traditions of his youth while Ayers is best known for his blend of funk and R&B as well as "acid jazz .

Roy Ayers
West Coast Blues
Mighty Quinn

Yet on his first recording, a 1963 hard bop date, West Coast Vibes, Ayers plays with aplomb à la Milt "Bags Jackson and his West Coast friend Bobby Hutcherson. Can he swing? Oh yes, he can and does on standards "Days of Wine and Roses , "It Could Happen to You , Thelonious Monk's "Well You Needn't , Charlie Parker's "Now's The Time , "Cool Blues and "Donna Lee plus Benny Golson's "Reggie of Chester . His jazz compositional chops are exposed on the 6/8 "Ricardo's Dilemma and the 4/4 opener "Sound and Sense , a tune that Louie Bellson liked so much that he recorded it under the title "I Remember Duke .

Jazz critic Leonard Feather produced Ayers' maiden voyage as a leader and his "Romeo is a romantic ballad which displays the softer side of early Ayers, where his kinship to "Bags is apparent. The same quality is heard on "Young and Foolish , his notes ringing with wide vibrato, lingering before disappearing into the ether. A group of top-flight yet under-recognized musicians support the leader: the fine pianist Jack Wilson and tough Texas-style tenor and soprano saxophonist Curtis Amy. Vocalist and alto saxophonist Vi Redd is featured on two bonus tracks from Ayers' 1962 recording debut and her bright sound adds a sharp flavor to the proceedings.

Terry Gibbs
Findin' the Groove
Jazzed Media

In the history of jazz, Terry Gibbs holds a revered place with Milt Jackson as a premier second generation swinger on vibes. On Findin' the Groove, the octogenarian wonder proves his fire hasn't lessened since his early days with Woody Herman's Second Herd big band.

Gibbs is joined by the great flutist Hubert Laws, son Gerry on drums, guitarist Dan Faehnle, pianist Tom Ranier and a remarkable young bassist, Hamilton Price. A brisk version of "Bernie's Tune kicks the date into high gear. Gibbs' playing is exuberant and technically precise on this tune and throughout. His well-crafted arrangements impress too, with pickups, riffs and interludes encasing and buttressing the improvisational freedom of the soloists, all whom share, on average, two choruses per song. A sly insertion of Charlie Parker's "Moose the Mooche in the outro of the opening number will delight close listeners.

The title cut, a 32-bar song form, begins with a two-beat feel, a skipping melody and a Latin bridge that turns straight-ahead during the solos. Laws trills and double tongues his way through the changes with a great big warm tone and flawless facility.

Other up numbers such as "Four Brothers , "Dance with the Brushes and the presto bop cooker "Wee are balanced by a mid-tempo "Teach Me Tonight and several blues pieces by Gibbs. The half- time feel of "Take My Blues Away may transport you down home to a place where improvisation and style triumph over what Albert Murray calls "the blues as such . South American grooves in samba and bossa nova spice up "Samba Wazoo and "Killer Joe , though the latter, a Benny Golson classic, could have done without the weak vocals as a coda.

Much better and pleasing is vocalist Joan Carrol on Gershwin's "But Not For Me , her inflections reminiscent of a young Nancy Wilson. The Gibbs original "The House That Might Have Been finds Carrol in good voice, with Gibbs' glissandos joining her mellifluous phrases in the soft breezes of a Los Angeles early spring.

Tracks and Personnel

West Coast Blues

Tracks:Sound and Sense; Days Of Wine And Roses; Reggie Of Chester; It Could Happen To You; Donna Lee; Ricardo's Dilemma; Romeo; Out Of Sight; Young And Foolish; Well You Needn't; Now's The Time; Perhaps/Cool Blues.

Personnel: Roy Ayers: vibes; Curtis Amy: tenor and soprano saxophones (1,3,6,8,9); Vi Redd: alto saxophone (11,12), vocals (11); Carmell Jones: trumpet (11,12); Jack Wilson: piano (1-10); Russ Freeman: piano (11,12); Bill Plummer: bass (1,3,6,8,9); Vic Gaskin: bass (2,4,5,7,10); Leroy Vinnegar: bass (11, 12); Tony Bazley: drums (1,3,6,8,9); Kenny Dennis: drums (2,4,5,7,10); Richie Goldberg: drums (11,12).

Findin' the Groove

Tracks: Bernie's Tune; Wednesday at Two; Findin' the Groove; But Not for Me; Teach Me Tonight; Killer Joe; Dance with the Brushes; Samba Wazoo; The House That Might Have Been; Four Brothers; Take My Blues Away; Wee (a.k.a. Allen's Alley); One Minute and Forty-Two Seconds to Station Break

Personnel: Terry Gibbs: vibraphone, leader; Hubert Laws: flute; Dan Faehnle: guitar; Tom Ranier: piano; Hamilton Price: bass; Gerry Gibbs: drums; Joan Carroll: vocals (4,9).

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