Review from Between Sound and Space (http://ecmreviews.com/)
If one were to draw a line between the ensemble aesthetics of Eberhard Weber and Keith Jarrett, then one might plot the compositions of orchestral jazz legend Mike Gibbs somewhere along the way. Born in 1937 in what was then Southern Rhodesia, and a graduate of Boston’s Berklee College of Music, Gibbs has laid down a musical path as diverse as his travels. On Seven Songs for Chamber Orchestra, one gains vision of a mind looking not so much to cross over into uncharted waters as to expand the inclusivity of jazz’s already broad topography. At the heart of this project is Gibbs’s most famous student, the inimitable Gary Burton, who presents a lovingly realized program of his mentor’s own design. “Nocturne Vulgaire” sets the album’s plaintive tone with a groundswell of strings, into which Burton drops his mercurial sound. This delicate blend of mallets and bows continues unabated in “Arise, Her Eyes” (Steve Swallow), the only non-Gibbs number on the album. Mick Goodrick’s steady strums and Ted Seibs’s cymbal-heavy drumming make the most of the tender “Throb,” as Burton’s vibes glow like phosphorescent blood in the piece’s ambulatory body. “By Way Of A Preface” spins the album’s densest song. Its abstract beginnings carry over into a gorgeously perpetual solo from Goodrick, while Swallow makes his memorable mark in the pensive confines of “Phases.” The vast open fields that underlie “The Rain Before It Falls” give way to the chromatic wonders of “Three,” in which Burton and Goodrick’s relays emerge with all the inevitability of a final word.
This is a dream album for admirers of both Burton and Weber, combining as it does the former’s dulcet precision and the latter’s lush arrangements, and is therefore well worth tracking down. Burton’s ability to carry a tune to fruition is only enhanced by Gibbs’s affected settings, which hardly make a dent in their emotional reserves. If jazz is about discovering the integrity of every lifted voice, then certainly Seven Songs rises from its murky waters with just a few of many unheard treasures.
Gary Burton vibraharp
Michael Goodrick guitar
Steve Swallow bass
Ted Seibs drums
Michael Gibbs conductor
Recorded December 1973 in Hamburg
Engineer: H. Ruete
Produced by Manfred Eicher