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Gerry Gibbs Thrasher Dream Trio: Live In Studio

Dan Bilawsky By

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Drummer Gerry Gibbs has been living a recurring dream with slight variations for the past few years. In December of 2012, he laid down tracks with two of his idols—the legendary Ron Carter and the estimable Kenny Barron—and dubbed their group the Thrasher Dream Trio. The eponymous debut from that band, featuring fifteen tracks recorded at those sessions, was, not surprisingly, a strong and classy affair filled with standards, some originals, and other jazz-friendly fare, such as Stevie Wonder's "Don't You Worry 'Bout A Thing" and Burt Bacharach's "Promises, Promises."

At the time of that album's release, those last-mentioned tracks could simply be viewed as part of the well-rounded program. But looking back now, it actually seems like they were dropped as hints of what was to come. About a year-and-a-half after that first Thrasher Dream Trio album was recorded, Gibbs brought the band together again to lay things down for We're Back (Whaling City Sound, 2014), a jazz-does-R&B project with A-list guests—vibraphonist Warren Wolf, saxophonist Steve Wilson, and organist Larry Goldings. That album offered multiple helpings of Wonder and Earth, Wind & Fire along with single servings of Bacharach, Marvin Gaye, Miles Davis, and the Average White Band. As on the trio's first album, the sparks were flying. The playing field, however, had changed a bit.

For this, the third go-around for this group, Gibbs does it again, tweaking the formula without altering the essence of the trio. This time he turned the focus toward pop-ish material from the '50s and '60s—the work of Bacharach, Henry Mancini, Michel Legrand, and others of that ilk—and put an audience in front of the band, recording live at Systems Two Recording Studio. Guests are part of the package again—now it's trumpeter Roy Hargrove and vocalist Cassandra Wilson, each appearing on a few tracks—and they help to add another wrinkle or two to the project without drawing focus away from the trio.

The album opens on a fluid "Wives And Lovers" that allows Barron's lyricism to shine through, gives Carter a chance to step into the spotlight, and puts Gibbs' brushwork at center stage. From there, the trio moves on with an unusually upbeat take on "The Summer Knows," a Wilson-enhanced version of "The Look Of Love" that moves from bossa nova to swing, and a variety of other familiar hits of yesteryear. Hargrove joins in for "On A Clear Day," quoting Ellington at one point and playfully trading solos with Gibbs; Vince Guaraldi's cheerfulness shines through on a perky trio performance of his "Cast Your Fate To The Wind"; "More" is transformed from a stale confection into an enjoyable swinger; and "Watch What Happens" happens twice—first as a cheerful, Brazilian-based instrumental, then as a swing-centered feature for Wilson.

Along the way there are plenty of other bright spots—an appropriately noir-ish "What Are You Doing The Rest Of Your Life?" with Hargrove on flugelhorn, a leisurely stroll through "Girl Talk"—and plenty of moments that serve as simple reminders as to why Barron and Carter are loved, respected, and emulated the world over. Their time and taste are impeccable, and when married to Gibbs' in-the-tradition drumming, you know the music is going to go in the right direction every time.

Track Listing: Wives And Lovers; The Summer Knows; The Look Of Love; Spartacus Love Theme; On A Clear Day; The Surrey With The Fringe On Top; Alfie; Watch What Happens (Instrumental); Theme From A Man And A Woman; Cast Your Fate To The WInd; What Are You Doing The Rest Of Your Life; More (From Mondo Cane); Watch What Happens (Vocal); Music To Watch The Girls Go By; Girl Talk; Charade.

Personnel: Kenny Barron: piano; Ron Carter: acoustic bass; Gerry Gibbs: drums; Roy Hargrove: trumpet, flugelhorn (5, 7, 11, 16); Cassandra Wilson: vocals (3, 7, 13).

Title: Live In Studio | Year Released: 2015 | Record Label: Whaling City Sound

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