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Trumpeter Greg Gisbert is a modern-day equivalent of such predecessors as Conte Condoli, Marvin Stamm, Richard Williams, and Clark Terry. That is to say he has spent much of his young musical career in the big bands (Buddy Rich and Maria Schneider) and doing studio work that while providing a living doesn't necessarily make for high visibility among the record-buying public. A graduate of the Berklee College of Music in Boston, Gisbert has never lacked for work over the years and has been lucky enough to appear on a number of fine releases as of late (Mickey Tucker's Hang in There, on SteepleChase, comes to mind) in addition to cutting two previous discs for Criss Cross Jazz.
The album at hand, The Court Jester, is Gisbert's most impressive outing to date and the maturity shown in his writing is most apparent. For proof of that, one needs look no further than the album's two highlights. "The Love Dirge" starts with a military snare drum opening that leads to a swaggering line that Gisbert's muted horn makes the most of (shades of Ellington and Strayhorn to be sure!) The title track then goes for broke, with a dense scoring that develops a momentum all of its own. Gisbert's incendiary trumpet shouts towards the conclusion are certainly some of his finest recorded moments to date.
Elsewhere one gets the sense that Gisbert was trying to present a taste of all the recent writing tricks he has added to his arranger's bag. The tunes are unusual and the voicings for this large ensemble (that includes trombone, saxophones, and flutes) are sonorous and delightful. It should also be mentioned that the crack rhythm team of pianist Janice Friedman, bassist Jay Anderson and drummer Gregory Hutchinson adds support that can only be described as perfect. And while Gisbert's comments in the liner notes tend to suggest that he's a bit hard on himself in terms of his own playing, the fact remains that there's nothing here that seems at all superfluous or mundane. The Court Jester is a memorable disc that will stand up over repeated listening and what more could you want then that?
Track Listing: Robyn Song, The Love Dirge, The Court Jester, Soft Snow, Smile, My Ideal, Waltz for Toots, Dizzy Atmosphere (57:22)
Personnel: Greg Gisbert- trumpet & fluegelhorn, Conrad Herwig- trombone, Tim Ries- tenor sax, soprano sax & flute, Jon Gordon- alto and soprano sax, Janice Friedman- piano, Jay Anderson- bass, Gregory Hutchinson- drums.
Years ago now--in Rhodesia--listening to Voice of America with Willis Conover I heard Bunk Johnson play When The Saints Go Marching In, and Billie Holiday sing Don't Explain. I knew then there was no other life for me than jazz.