Terry Gibbs' Jewish-Jazz Fusion

by Matt Temkin

album coverTerry Gibbs Plays Jewish Melodies in Jazztime
Mercury SR 60812 (stereo) MG 20812 (Monaural)
reissue Verve Music Group catalog #3145896732

The winter of 1962/63 was a fertile one for the growth of Jewish Jazz Fusion records. Unfortunately it appears that the market for the two major label albums that would come out of this winter would be far ahead their time. Recorded in Los Angeles on December 17, 18 and 20 of 1962 was "Shelly Manne: My Son the Jazz Drummer!" Just weeks later in New York City, January 11 and 12 of 1963, "Terry Gibbs, Plays Jewish Melodies in Jazztime" was recorded.

Luckily for our listening enjoyment one of these two albums has come back into print for a limited time. "Terry Gibbs Plays Jewish Melodies in Jazztime" is the work of the sons of a klezmer, a pianist who was making her first recording (and the answer to a Jewish Music trivia question), and the Jewish Music link to Michael Jackson.

Terry Gibbs, nee Julius Gubenko, is the son of Abe Gubenko the late leader of the Radio Novelty Orchestra which played Weddings and Bar Mitzvahs in the New York area. On this album he brings his band in, Herman Wright (bass), Bobby Pike (drums), and Alice Mcleod (piano). To this he adds his brothers group, Ramon Musiker (clarinet), Sam Kuttcher (Trombone), Alan Logan (piano), and Sol Gage (his brother and the drummer). His brother lead a band in the New York area that played Jewish music and was a continuation of their father's band.

So the serious jazz scholar has already made this link, for the rest of you, here is the trivia. On the first album that she appears on her name is given as Alice Hagood in the listing of musicians and Alice McCord in the linernotes, her first name was but her last name was wrong. At this time it was McLeod, she went on to great fame playing with and then recording on after her (future) husband passed away. So, when you go to the record store and want to find her recordings, who do you look up? Alice Coltrane, wife of John Coltrane, who made her first recording playing Jewish music.

And lastly the link to Michael Jackson? The album was produced by the A&R man for Mercury Records at the time, Q. No, not the Q who produces the great toys for James Bond to annihilate, but the great band leader and record producer Quincy Jones. (Quicy Jones produced a number of Michael Jackson records including "Thriller.")

In 2002 we have seen two reissues from major labels that have Ray Musiker playing clarinet on them. "Tantz!" and now this album. I am not sure if is do to the fact that Ray is such an amazing musician, or just the fact that he managed to show up in the right place at the right time?

One of the few downsides to this reissue is that it includes neither updated linernotes or any bonus material. But for material that has been unknown and out of the public availability for so long I don't feel that this is a down side. It would have been nice to have seen more than just the one sentence that they have introducing the album on the little spine, but it doesn't give a good introduction of the music to the non-initiated. This may be the one downside. Many of the buyers to this album will be buying it for its jazz qualities, while the Jewish music listeners will not go out to find this album. I found it in the Jazz section under Terry Gibbs at my local record store, and that is where you will have to go look for this album. One of the great things that this album does is provide a link to some of the modern explorations in Klezmer music. The closest link today to this album in my opinion is Burton Greene and his band Klezmokum. This is one of those albums that every serious listener to the Eastern European Jewish Musical Tradition (ok, we can call it Klezmer) should have on their record shelf. If not to see what jazz musicians can do with Jewish Music, but then to hear Ray Musiker play "My Yiddishe Mama." Their is a reason that the first mention of the music in the liner notes by Les Davis is Ray's playing.

Shelly Manne: "My Son the Jazz Drummer!" is Contemporary S7609.

by Matt Temkin, 11 Jun 2002.

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