"Gibbs music is full of intriguing inner detail that does not deflect from the ultimate destiny of his pieces." – BBC Music Magazine

"Mike Gibbs' ingenious arrangements suggest a pop art incarnation of a traditional big band -- assembled from blistering guitar riffage, fiery brass and deeply idiosyncratic rhythms ...[his music]...nevertheless retains the soulfulness of conventional jazz, and for all its mind-expanding consciousness, the music speaks to the body as loudly as it does the intellect. Most impressive is the tactile sumptuousness of Gibbs' sound -- the music boasts as many tints and textures as a Pantone Color Guide." – All Music Guide

Brit-jazz composer and arranger Michael Gibbs was born in 1937 in Zimbabwe. Starting in 1959, he studied in Boston at the Berklee College of Music, the Boston Conservatory , Tanglewood and the Lenox School of Music, where he studied with a who's who of contemporary jazz and modern composition: George Russell, Gunther Schuller, Iannis Xenakis, Aaron Copland, Lukas Foss and others. In 1964 he moved to the UK, where he engaged himself in the rapidly emerging contemporary UK jazz scene. Starting in the late 60s and continuing into the mid 70s, he recorded a number of highly acclaimed and influential albums featuring many of the most prominent British-based jazz players who, like Michael, were beginning to flirt with jazz/rock. Since the mid 70s he has worked as a educator as well as a free-lance arranger, doing arrangements and orchestrations for major names such as Joni Mitchell, Pat Metheny, The Mahavishnu Orchestra, and Peter Gabriel among many others, while too infrequently recording his own music.


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“So much came from my association with Mike... He went from being my hero to a friend, and he’s always been my teacher... I’ve always fantasized about doing something with him adapting some of my music.” – Bill Frisell

As a dauntingly prolific artist, Bill Frisell has recorded in a vast array of settings, but he’s never made an album like Play a Bill Frisell Set List. Captured live in concert with the superb NDR Bigband, the guitarist delivers a tour de force performance on a program of ingenious arrangements designed specifically for him and the NDR by Michael Gibbs.

Recorded at the Überjazz Festival with the NDR Bigband on Oct 26, 2013, Play a Bill Frisell Set List captures Frisell interacting with one of the world’s great jazz orchestras, exploring sleek, spacious, vividly expressive arrangements of compositions drawn from throughout his career. Gibbs didn’t plan the concert as a recording session, but after many years of trying to bring Frisell and the NDR together he felt the results were too good to keep under wraps. “Jeff Ballard playing drums for this concert was a dream, and the band really enjoyed playing it, so the music was magical,” Gibbs says. “I couldn’t resist the opportunity to release it.”

It’s difficult to overstate Gibbs’ impact on the trajectory of Frisell’s music and career. As a Denver teenager, Frisell convinced his father to take him to a touring Newport Jazz Festival show at Red Rocks in the summer of 1968 and the experience radically opened his ears. “It was an amazing program, with Gary Burton with Bob Moses, Coryell, and Steve Swallow, and they blew my brains out,” Frisell recalls. “I’d never heard anything like it. So I started getting those records, and there’s some guy named Mike Gibbs who wrote half the songs on these records. He had so much to do with that sound, making a world for that group to inhabit.”

Frisell started following Gibbs’ music, and was thrilled to discover that he was composer-in-residence at Berklee when he enrolled in 1975. He took all of the classes that Gibbs offered and was tremendously encouraged when Gibbs complimented his playing after catching Frisell’s group at a gig.

By 1978 Frisell had relocated to Belgium to focus on his music, which meant he was well placed to step in when Gibbs needed a guitarist for a tour of the UK. The group included the German bassist Eberhard Weber, with whom Frisell would play a duo at every concert. The connection he forged with the bassist on this tour led to Frisell’s participation on Weber’s 1979 album Fluid Rustle, the first of the dozens of recordings that Frisell would do on ECM as a sideman and leader, and where his career truly started!

Play a Bill Frisell Set List is Bill Frisell’s first-ever appearance as the featured soloist on a big band session, and with Gibbs’ melodically verdant, harmonically suggestive arrangements, he’s not likely to find a better set list than Set List.

Play A Bill Frisell Set List press release

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While studded with treasured recordings reflecting his singular writing skills, Michael Gibbs’ slim discography has never kept pace with the breadth and depth of his creative output. In a career spanning more than half a century, he’s collaborated with a dazzling array of artists in jazz and beyond, including Pat Metheny, John McLaughlin, Joni Mitchell, John Scofield, Gary Burton, Whitney Houston, Peter Gabriel, and Richard Galliano.

Gibbs’ intermittent relationship with Germany’s NDR Bigband, one the world's longest-running jazz ensembles, dates back to the early 1970s and has provided a particularly valuable vehicle for his vivid musical imagination. “I feel I know the individual players so well, that I write for them personally, or use how I know them in making orchestrational choices,” Gibbs says of the NDR Bigband. “That’s a luxury these day, when other projects are written more for the standard instrumentation without knowledge of the personal attributes (stunning as though they might be, and often are).”

Born on September 25th, 1937, Gibbs has studied with such noted figures as Gunther Schuller, George Russell J.J. Johnson, Aaron Copland, Iannis Xenakis, and Lukas Foss. By the beginning of the 70s, he was recognized as one of jazz’s leading young arrangers and composers, and he developed a personal, thickly textured approach inspired by Gil Evans, Charles Ives and Olivier Messiaen.

Gibbs has honed a subtle and highly personal approach to arranging and composition, incorporating driving rock rhythms and asymmetrical phrasing. When first emerging, his work anticipated the jazz/rock movement of the 70s. Although better known as an arranger than a composer, he really is one of the great writers to emerge out of the 'Brit-jazz' scene, and four wonderful, new original pieces are highlighted here.

With In My View, Gibbs makes an unimpeachable case that this jazz cat in winter hasn’t lost a step. Gibbs’ View adds up to one of the year’s most rewarding and successful big band projects.

In My View press release

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Back In The Days is an audiophile recording of this great, too infrequently heard jazz composer and arranger fronting a well-honed 18-piece big band in a program of original modern jazz plus three specially arranged classics. The band is chock-full of great soloists and ensemble players and the legendary vibes player Gary Burton is a featured soloist.

After too many years of lack of consideration strictly because they were not Americans, the profile and interest in the 60s/70s wave of British jazz talents has never been higher and Gibbs is one of the major names in the field. From beginning to end, Back In The Days is a delight for fans of Brit-jazz, contemporary jazz and modern big band music!

Back in the Days press release

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For press and media: cover art and high resolution images are available below for download (click thumbnail, right-click image and select "Save As.."). Please credit the photographer (when available) and "Courtesy of Cuneiform Records". For more information, click here.

Play a Bill Frisell Set List

In My View

Back in the Days

Play A Bill Frisell Set List press release
In My View press release
Back in the Days press release

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Cuneiform Records 2014


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