Until very recently this pairing--septuagenarian vibist Terry Gibbs with the full-throated organ band led by Chicago guitarist Henry Johnson--might have looked like a misprint to anyone familiar with Gibbs's career. He's done his best and best-known work in big-band settings and in quartets and quintets costarring the great clarinetist Buddy DeFranco; even in the early 60s, when the first wave of organ groups would occasionally feature a vibraphone soloist (instead of guitar or sax), Gibbs never tested that format. But his recent tribute to vibes pioneer Lionel Hampton (From Me to You, on Mack Avenue) stars reigning B-3 king Joey DeFrancesco. DeFrancesco can play rings around most improvisers he runs across, but nobody outraces Gibbs; he turned 79 this past Monday, but he's still soloing as busily as ever, with a fire that's been equaled on his instrument only by Gary Burton and Hampton himself. The new disc features terrific LA sidemen Pete Christlieb (sax) and Anthony Wilson (guitar), but Gibbs will be in good hands with Henry Johnson's band. After some smooth-jazz commercial success in the 90s, Johnson built the Express around the sound that first captivated him in the 70s (his first steady gig was with organist Jack McDuff). Chris Foreman uses his own B-3 style to build a bridge back to that era, while tenor man Peter Roothaan keeps his lines spare and his swing deep against the clean, dancing drum work of Greg Rockingham; Johnson's own solos brim with unbridled, unapologetic lyricism. The Express's appearance gives listeners the jump on next week's release party for its album Organic (A440, for which I supplied liner notes). Friday and Saturday, October 17 and 18, 9 and 11 PM, and Sunday, October 19, 4, 8, and 10 PM, Jazz Showcase, 59 W. Grand; 312-670-2473.
Art accompanying story in printed newspaper (not available in this archive): photo/Rebekah Gibbs, Michael Jackson.