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Gerry Gibbs and the Thrasher Big Band: Live at Luna

Edward Blanco By

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Live at Luna celebrates a swinging two-night live big band performance in July of 2005 by drummer/bandleader Gerry Gibbs and his Thrasher Big Band. If you're in any way familiar with or partial to the kind of roar you hear from a Buddy Rich Big Band or the powerful sounds from the Woody Herman's Thundering Herds, then you'll be more than pleased with the music from this muscular jazz orchestra that played regularly at the Luna Fine Music Club in San Antonio, where this album was recoded. Gibbs, whose nickname is "Thrasher, formed this nineteen-piece big band several years ago after growing frustrated and disenchanted with the jazz scene in San Antonio. He realized his dream with the aid of friend and trumpeter Adrian Ruiz, who also conducts the band.

Another important and influential person Gibbs drew upon for assistance was his old man, the legendary vibraphonist and former leader of his own big band (Dream Band), Terry Gibbs. It was Terry Gibbs who provided additional big band charts and insisted on the inclusion of vocalist Joan Carroll, an unexpected but brilliant performer. Carroll appears on three songs and seems like a perfect marriage for the band. Two of the best cuts on the album include the singer, who belts out the lyrics to Steve Allen's "Playing the Field behind an energizing, rumbling big band sound. Both the singer and the band duplicate this fiery mixture on the old standard "You've Changed.

Gerry Gibbs contributes five original compositions, including the loud and in-your-face opener, "The Caribbean Song. Dedicated to altoist Arthur Blythe, "The Night The Blytheman Walked Into The Room features appreciable solos by Andy Langham (piano), Jason Jones (trumpet) and Morgan King (tenor). Gibbs dedicates another one of his originals to McCoy Tyner with "When I Dream, a moody and melancholy number with bursts of brilliance from Justin Vasquez (soprano), Eric Hargett (tenor) and the leader on drums. The band goes funky on "Some Skunk Funk and mellows out on "11 Years Old, the first song Gibbs ever penned. The session wraps up with the very bluesy "And That's Why They Call It The Blues and "Song With No Title, containing a meaty solo from Rick Swuem (tenor), accompanied by powerful backdrop drumming by Gibbs.

Kudos to Gerry Gibbs and his Thrasher Big Band for delivering an impressive and memorable debut. Loud, boisterous and full of brass, this orchestra reminds me of what a powerhouse, muscular big band is suppose to sound like. Providing jazzy vocals, terrific charts and excellent musicianship by an unheralded ensemble, Live at Luna is one supercharged big band album.


Track Listing: The Carribean Song; The Night The Blytheman Walked Into The Room, The Room Went Dark and Nothing Else Mattered; When I Dream; You've Changed; Some Skunk Funk; Maiden Voyage; 11 Years Old; Playing The Field; And That's Why They Call It The Blues; Song With No Title.

Personnel: Gerry Gibbs: leader and drums; Adrian Ruiz: conductor, trumpet, tambourine; Andy Langham: piano, fender rhodes; Hamliton Price: bass; Rod Hardt, justin Vasquez, Morgan King, Rick Swuem, Eric Hargett, Dave Guidi: reeds; Freddie Mendoza, Gilbert Garza, Ron Wilkins: trombone; Rick Horn, Al Gomez, Jason Jones, Curtis Calderon, Pat Murry: trumpets and flugelhorn; Joan Carroll: vocals.

Title: Live At Luna | Year Released: 2006 | Record Label: Whaling City Sound


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