“It’s a bold move to cover Weather Report in this day and age,” assert the liner notes to drummer Gerry Gibbs’ double-disc Weather or Not. “Risky” might be a better word for the gambit, which places the covers on disc one and a new suite of Gibbs originals on the other. The risk doesn’t really pay off, but it’s not because the trio of Gibbs and the Thrasher People (keyboardist Alex Collins and bassist Hans Glawischnig) can’t do justice to the Weather Report material.
On the contrary, Gibbs’ (mostly) acoustic trio arrangements of “A Remark You Made” and “Elegant People” have beauty and power, while the high-speed shuffle of “Birdland” demonstrates that tune’s versatility. Meanwhile, Collins unearths a savvy, deceptively economical solo on “Teen Town,” contrasted by decidedly more opulent three-way work (piano, organ, Rhodes) on the fiercely swinging “Sightseeing.” Glawischnig adds a compelling dimension to the latter in a bowed counterpoint to Collins’ piano, and Gibbs does the performance proud with a rare solo break of his own.
The bad news is that the quality of Weather Report’s material emphasizes the shortcomings in Gibbs’ own. Shorter and Zawinul balanced their grooves with melody and hooks; on the full-length “The Life Suite,” Gibbs merely tempers his with vamps and just-this-side-of-dissonant shapes that never catch hold (with some exceptions: the Latin-spiced “Just Glad to Be Anywhere” has wings, and “St. Marteen,” a kalimba jam, is so infectious that its 30-second length just infuriates). “The 70’s Song/aka ‘Patrice Rushen,’” for example, captures its namesakes, but is so static it seems designed as the loop in a hip-hop track. “We Are So Free” has more direction but is too convoluted to have an impact, and “It’s a Good Day” spins its cheery wheels, finding both Glawischnig and Collins doing the same in their solos. Gibbs can do better.