Terry Gibbs (vib), Pat Moran (p, org), Jimmy Bond, Max Bennett, John Doling (b), Gary Frommer, Mike Romero (d)
Reference: FSRCD 991
Bar code: 8427328609913
To appear in the many places that couldn’t house and/or afford his wondrous big Dream Band, bandleader Terry Gibbs put together a number of quartets over the years. His enthusiasm and the gloriously swinging sounds heard on these two albums —“That Swing Thing!” and “Straight Ahead”— were recorded in Los Angeles in 1962 in a series of in-person performances at Shelly’s Manne-Hole, and in a session at Radio Recorders studios.
You can tell from the opening vibraphone bell that Terry loved to swing, and from his constant exhortations within eye and ear shot that he wanted everybody —including those in his own group— to know it.
The result was an uncluttered string of performances that give Gibbs and pianist Pat Moran ample room to solo. Her piano is an enlivening factor in both groups, and she even tries her hand at the electric organ on a couple of tracks. Both rhythm sections work well together, in a tasteful display of skill and vitality.
"Whether leading his various quartets or the superlative Dream Band, Terry Gibbs (now 96 and still playing and recording) never fails to deliver exciting and immaculate performances. He also communicates this excitement and pleasure to his musicians with a stream of just-audible grunts and colourful exhortations and comments.
These two albums originally appeared on the Verve label, and it’s good to have them back in CD format. On both of these live dates, Gibbs featured pianist Pat Moran – who was also in two of the Dream Band (also live) 1961 sessions, retitled Main Stem and The Big Cat.
Born in Oklahoma in 1934, Moran studied at Phillips University and the Cincinnati School of Music, and began her career as a concert pianist, but later moved to jazz. She performed with a quartet at Birdland in 1957, released a trio album with Scott La Faro on bass and Gene Gammage on drums, and recorded with Mel Tormé and Oscar Pettiford. When Gibbs was looking for a pianist to replace Terry Pollard, he heard Moran play in a Chicago club and recalled that she “had everything I was looking for that I usually have in my quartet”. He promptly invited her to join him in California (where she and her young son lived with him and his then-wife).
Moran enjoyed the short time she spent with the quartet and Dream Band (despite having some difficulty reading the charts), and recently (and ambiguously) reflected that “playing with Terry was quite an experience”. They have remained good friends ever since. In the early 1980s she released an album (with a companion book) of children’s songs; in 2018 she was inducted into the Oklahoma Jazz Hall of Fame.
That Swing Thing! opens with a fast-paced and retitled version of the spiritual Let My People Go, with Gibbs and Moran immediately establishing an exhilarating rapport, ably backed by Bond on bass and Frommer on drums. The Bobby Timmons composition Moanin’ receives a propulsive performance, with Gibbs playing behind the beat and then riffing behind Moran’s solo. Stella By Starlight is taken at a surprisingly upbeat tempo, but is none the worse for that. Three Blind Mice – which Gibbs jokingly claims as his own composition – is played in 3/4 time, with vibes and piano hammering out the familiar tune, with bespoke support from Bond and Frommer. Gibbs can be heard encouraging Moran who responds with obvious delight and impressive dexterity. Blue Wednesday (a genuine Gibbs composition) features slow tempo solos from the two principals, with the rhythm section playing in half time. The set ends with another Gibbs original, Mannehole March, a shuffle-beat semi-gospel tune, with Gibbs again encouraging his compatriots to keep swinging – and they comply.
A studio session, Straight Ahead, was recorded a year later, and with another rhythm section. On Hippy Twist and C.C. Blues (both Gibbs compositions) Moran makes her debut on organ, turning in creditable performances, with Terry’s gently prompting and complementary vibes. The best track is a thoughtful reworking of On Green Dolphin Street, with crisp brush work from Mike Romero. The ballads Memories Of You and You Go to My Head receive gently swinging and respectful – but not over-sweet treatments. If not quite up to the quality of That Swing Thing! the Straight Ahead date delivers what it says on the tin. That said (and partly retracted) this is a superb reissue, and deserves more than honourable mention."
—John White (August 9, 2020)
"Vibist Terry Gibbs, born in 1924, is the last living musician to have played during the Swing Era, having been with Woody Herman’s world famous Second Herd and teamed up with famed clarinetists Benny Goodman and Buddy DeFranco between stints of his own small and large ensembles. This collection of two lps on one cd find him playing during the Kennedy years with Pat Moran on piano and organ, once in a concert setting at the famous Shelly’s Manne-Hole in LA, and th other in an LA studio on 1962. If you want some fun swing, here’s your chance!
Gibbs and Moran are supported by bassist Bond, Jimmy Bond, and drummer Gary Frommer during the April, 61 gig. The rhythm team sizzles and charges like a stamped on “Let My People Blow” and bop till they drop on an enthusiastic “Stella By Starlight”. Bond shakes, not stirs, his bass as he’s featured on a double timed “Three Blind Mice” and Moran turns the club into a late night saloon on “Blue Wednesday” before Frommer’s guide of drumsticks gives a backbeat to the bluesy “Mannehole March”. The joint was jumpin’!
The ’62 studio session has Max Bennett-John Doling/ b and Mike Romero/dr rounding out the team, with Moran on the organ for a kiztchy pop piece “Hippie Twist” and a splashy “C.C. Blues” that has Bennett slinking along with Gibbs. The leader is rich in his interplay with the pianist on a gorgeous “You Go To My Head” and they sway on a richly chorded “On Green Dolphin Street” with Romero brushing up the sidewalk. Timeless swing for the ages."
—George W. Harris (May 28, 2020)