Wednesday, July 03, 2002


by Wayne Robins

Los Angeles, 1994: Northridge earthquake wrecks home of vibes player/bandleader Terry Gibbs.

Los Angeles, 2001: Gibbs finds long-forgotten cache of reel to reel tapes in a closet of his reconstructed house. Some boxes marked: "Big Band Sundown, Seville 1959." Has tapes transferred to CD. Quality, variety strong enough to have Fantasy through its Contemporary label release "Terry Gibbs Dream Band: One More Time," summer 2002. The music evokes...

Los Angeles, 1959: Sgt. Joe Friday is the scourge of miscreants. Peter Gunn drops bad guys without ever getting a crease in his suit. Business is booming for the detective agency at 77 Sunset Strip. Everyone, it seems, is either a cop or a con, private eye or crook. Hush money, graft, and kickbacks ooze like a river of sludge from every pore of the region, from Chavez Ravine, to which the Brooklyn Dodgers had been lured with a new stadium, to the Hollywood Hills, where the gay stars could never come out, day or night. Downtown, the Los Angeles Times, California's dominant self-serving opinion maker, helps engineer the run of the political star it created, Eisenhower veep Richard Nixon, for the Republican nomination for president of the United States. The whole town is shaking, like two million hopheads going through withdrawal, waiting for James Ellroy to get old enough to write it all down...[Ellroy link is a fan site]

Meanwhile, back at the Seville, or the Sundown...Terry Gibbs Dream Band proves that California jazz can be anything but mellow. The big band era may have faded elsewhere, but not here: It's the moment of the clean cut white hipster, and Gibbs 1959 was custom-made. The set begins with an Al Cohn composition called "The Fuzz"...can you dig it?...with trumpeter Conte Candoli and sax man Joe Maini wailing like they're wearing brass jockstraps that had been baking in a bread oven. There aren't 76 trombones, but three on the bandstand make a toe-tapper march. The bands (the recordings were made at two different clubs during 1959) had some overlapping personnel, but drummer Mel Lewis was the hub that made Gibbs' Dream Band so nimble: These guys were bruisers who could swing hard as Sammy Sosa, but they had the touch of jewel thieves and knew how to score. They probably still can: Terry Gibbs will be among the straightahead performers at the West Coast Jazz Party ("right down the middle and straight ahead jazz") at the Irvine Marriott Labor Day Weekend, and yours truly wishes he could be there.

For more on Terry Gibbs, his background, and audio clips, check out National Public Radio's Jazz Profile. In recognition of NPR's preferences, you should cut and paste this manually:

(c) copyright 2002 Wayne Robins, all rights reserved. Comments?

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