Sometimes good ideas just materialize. Sometimes they come simply out of urgency. Gerry Gibbs had just recorded and released Thrasher Dream Trio—with Kenny Barron and Ron Carter—for Whaling City Sound. That record was so successful so quickly that all parties involved wanted to hop back in the studio faster than a teenager driving his first car. But with what material? What kind of record?
Gibbs had been working with Neal Weiss, label head of WCS, for four of his eight solo recordings. They worked together well. Gibbs’ mind is a massive scratchpad of possible ideas: recordings, songs, harmonies, hooks, collaborators … “Neal never tells me what to do,” explains Gibbs, “but he threw out an idea for a concept record.”
Gibbs has a lot of concepts up his sleeve, but chose a handful of classic R&B and soul tunes from the 60s and 70s to see how the band would handle them. “I thought I will not try and re-harmonize any of the original chord changes because these songs are already so beautiful,” says Gibbs. “We’lI only change the rhythms to make them swing.”
They all agreed: a cool idea indeed. Gibbs cleared it with his bandmates, and while that sounds manageable, it took months to find a recording date in which all parties were available. “Kenny and Ron loved the idea,” says Gibbs. “With these guys, I can go in 50 different directions, so it’s frustrating to choose just one.” Not to mention that they are so in demand, it’s tough to find the time.
And so they set out to record. The songs are ambitious; the choices are predictable, but also great canvasses for the band. Choices include material by the greats: Stevie Wonder (“Too High,” “My Cherie Amour”), Marvin Gaye (“What’s Going On?”), Earth, Wind and Fire (“Reasons,” “Fantasy,” “Runnin’”), Nascimento (“Brazilian Rhyme”), and many others.
The performances are spontaneous, fiery and inventive. They take warmly familiar tunes and turn them into sizzling, classic jazz standards that stretch the skills of these consummate musicians and draw the listener into an epic jazz adventure. “I thought,” says Gibbs, “these are all recognizable melodies that people love, so I will treat them like old jazz standards to sing to and only make up the forms for the solos.”
The recording also features playing from red hot, world-class guests Warren Wolf (vibraphone), Larry Goldings (B-3), and Steve Wilson (woodwinds). Says Gibbs: “Ron and Kenny use Steve a lot, too, so the camaraderie was a blast with the four of us.” Goldings, besides being one of everybody’s favorite piano players, is also one of the music world’s most accomplished organists. “I can brag a lot about Larry,” says Gibbs, “but when Kenny expressed his love for Larry’s playing and told me after listening to the tracks how great he thought Larry sounded, well, that’s about as great of a compliment as one can get coming from one of the masters of the piano!”
Recorded by Alex Venguer at MSR Studios in New York, mixed and mastered by Mike Marciano at Systems 2 Studios, produced by Gibbs, and overseen by Weiss at WCS, the stage was set for a handful of truly grand performances. Combine that collective effort with a great concept for a recording, and you’ve got “We’re Back,” the Thrasher Dream Trio’s inspired new project.
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