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Gerry Gibbs Thrasher Dream Trio: We’re Back

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They’re back? They didn’t go anywhere, thankfully. The Gerry Gibbs Thrasher Dream Trio released its first album last fall, and as it began climbing the jazz charts, the drummer quickly reconvened bassist Ron Carter and pianist Kenny Barron for round two. We’re Back is more of a concept record-jazz versions of R&B hits-and this time Gibbs brought in a few guests, including vibraphonist Warren Wolf, organist Larry Goldings and saxophonist Steve Wilson.

“Thrasher” is a misleading name for this group. They play with élan, for sure, but it is a tasteful vivacity. (“Thrasher” is the name of a tune Gibbs put on his first album 20 years ago.) The focus is on the wonderful interplay among Gibbs, Carter and Barron, and on Gibbs’ knack for assigning new rhythms to pop hits.

Though these are R&B songs, the music swings madly. Gibbs has transformed every tune into bona fide bop, and they sound completely natural. He’s got kindred souls for the project too-few musicians over the past half-century have combined refinement and electricity the way Messrs. Barron and Carter have. More than half of the tunes on We’re Back come from the songbooks of Stevie Wonder (including a head-nodding run through “Creepin’,” a pretty, bluesy reading of “My Cherie Amour” and a lovely medley of “Living for the City” and “Overjoyed”) and Earth, Wind & Fire (an ambling “Reasons” with walking bass, a barnburning “Mighty Mighty” featuring Wilson’s alto sax, a pulse-quickening “Fantasy” with Wilson on soprano).

Elsewhere, the Roberta Flack/Donny Hathaway hit “Where Is the Love” gets a Latin flavor, Wolf’s vibraphone and Goldings’ Hammond B3 enliven a faster-than-expected take of Marvin Gaye’s “What’s Going On,” and Average White Band’s funk staple “Pick Up the Pieces” receives a drastic makeover that turns the tune into ’40s-style bebop. Even at 75 minutes you want this disc to keep spinning.

Originally Published