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May 2003

Terry Gibbs
From Me To You
Mack Avenue Records

No one is more hyper, or hipper, than Terry Gibbs. I've seen him play in 5/4 while chewing his ever-present gum in 4/4. He never shuts up, at live gigs or recording sessions, and that's all part of his neurotic charm. Gibbs exudes a fierce loyalty to jazz and to those icons who helped mold him. Thus, From Me to You, his tribute to Lionel Hampton. Gibbs has surrounded himself with like-minded swingers: Pete Christlieb, tenor; Joey DeFrancesco, organ; Mike Melvoin, piano; Anthony Wilson, guitar; Dave Carpenter, bass; Jeff Hamilton, drums; and for one tune, "Evil Gal Blues," producer Stix Hooper wisely chose singer Barbara Morrison.

It's a fun session, capturing the essence of Hamp's energy and showmanship. Gibbs arranged all 14 tracks, which means beaucoup solo stretching-out, particularly for Gibbs, Christlieb and DeFrancesco. It also translates to three vocals by Gibbs: "Ring Dem Bells," an ancient anthem by Duke, used for introducing sidemen, "Hey! Ba-Ba-Re-Bop" and "On the Sunny Side of the Street." The last time Gibbs recorded a song with his vocals was 54 years ago: "Lemon Drop," with Woody Herman. An ominous pattern is emerging here. As Gibbs observed, "Maybe I'll sing on records every 54 years."

Singing aside, this is Mallets in Wonderland. Gibbs' technique remains as fluid as ever on up tunes, which means consistently; he's so impatient on ballads, he tends to double the feel. Characteristically Gibbs turns both index fingers into mallets for a piano solo on "Two-Finger Boogie Shuffle."

Here's hoping Gibbs remains active for as long as the 94 years allotted to Hamp.

Originally published in May 2003
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