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Gerry Gibbs Assembled Jazz Legends To Honor His Father's Music. The Result Contained Chick Corea's Final Recordings.

Gerry Gibbs

Photo: Joan Carroll

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Gerry Gibbs Assembled Jazz Legends To Honor His Father's Music. The Result Contained Chick Corea's Final Recordings.

Jazz drummer Gerry Gibbs drove 15,000 miles around America to make 'Songs From My Father,' a homage to his dad Terry Gibbs’ music. One of the greats who contributed was Chick Corea—and unbeknownst to everyone, these were the last recordings he’d ever make

GRAMMYs/Aug 13, 2021 - 09:58 pm

North, south, east and west on the interstates of a pandemic-gripped America, Gerry Gibbs drove 15,000 miles to make some music. In the evenings, he and his wife, Kyeshie, camped out in the car and dozed off to DVDs of KojakStarsky and Hutch and The Mod Squad. They were too apprehensive about COVID-19 to board a flight or sleep in a hotel. So, with his record label's financial assistance, they drove and drove and drove.

"I'm not touring. I'm not working. I just sit at home every day wondering what's going to happen," Gibbs told GRAMMY.com back in 2020 while driving through the middle of the desert. "Everything I ever had doesn't exist anymore." So he hurtled between New York, California, Texas and Florida throughout the first wave. "All to make this stupid record," Gibbs says in 2021, cheekily and modestly. Because what he and his associates made is a doozy.

He was driving all over creation to make Songs From My Father (released August 6), a homage to the songbook of his dad, the pioneering vibraphonist and bebop luminary Terry Gibbs. It features four permutations of his Thrasher Dream Trio, drawing from a Rolodex of cream-of-the-crop musicians: bassists Ron CarterChristian McBride and Buster Williams, and pianists Chick CoreaKenny BarronPatrice RushenGeoff Keezer and Larry Goldings.

By now, in music, the anecdotes about recording in lockdown are starting to bleed together. Plus, jazz is a Möbius strip of lineages, so a son paying tribute to his father is as natural as can be. That said, Songs From My Father stands out for multiple reasons. 

First, it sheds light on Terry, an underappreciated architect of America's music. Second, it’s a testament to Gerry's indefatigable creativity. And—perhaps most enticingly—it contains the final recordings of the late pianistic legend and 25-time GRAMMY winner Chick Corea.

Terry Gibbs with bassist Eddie Safranski and the 1953 Metronome All-Stars. Photo: PoPsie Randolph/Michael Ochs Archives/Getty Images​.

The Swinging Mastery Of Terry Gibbs

At almost 97, Terry is a hilarious fount of stories, and his 2003 memoir, Good Vibes: A Life in Jazz, is a treasure trove of Brooklynite musings. The man born Julius Gubenko in 1924 had a front-row seat to bebop and big band at their peaks, playing with Benny GoodmanBuddy RichElla FitzgeraldCharlie Parker, Bud Powell, Dizzy Gillespie and scores of other household names.

Gerry was born in 1964, and his father didn’t steer him toward becoming a musician at all. "He's had his own mind since he was a kid," Terry tells GRAMMY.com. "I never told him what to like. He went from liking Buddy Rich to liking Elvin Jones, and that's a big jump going from straight-ahead to a guy who was playing pretty far out. But he liked it. That's where his head was."

Terry and Gerry Gibbs. Photo courtesy of Gerry Gibbs.

Read More: 10 Essential Cuts From Jazz Piano Great McCoy Tyner

Gerry became a music obsessive by his own volition. "You remember those blue-jean-colored folders you put all your manilla folders in when you were in class?" Gerry asks GRAMMY.com. "On the front, I would just put 'Chick Corea. Ron Carter. Freddie HubbardMiles DavisJohn Coltrane. Kenny Barron.' And I would just stare at the names on the books and say, 'These are my heroes. These are the people I want to play with one day.'"

Terry didn't just play with the titans of bebop; he provided a platform for brilliant Black female pianists. One, Alice Coltrane (née McLeod), is experiencing an overdue reappraisal. Another, Terry Pollard—an equal talent on vibraphone who performed alongside him in swinging mallet contests—remains bizarrely obscure given her considerable skills.

About Alice Coltrane, "Before everything she had done with John, she was a swinging bebopper, playing in all these Detroit bands and in Terry Gibbs' band," saxophonist Jeff Lederer told GRAMMY.com in 2020. "She was a great, great bebopper." As for Pollard, "I feel like it's really important to acknowledge her when talking about this music," Geoff Keezer tells GRAMMY.com.

Terry Gibbs and Terry Pollard. Photo courtesy of Gerry Gibbs.

Read More: 'Ptah, The El Daoud' At 50: How Alice Coltrane Straddled Heaven And Earth

Terry played from age 12 until his retirement at 92. In that time, he made more than 90 solo recordings and was the musical director on "The Steve Allen Show" for more than 20 years. However, he's mysteriously still not an NEA Jazz Master, despite many musicians far younger than him—and with fewer bona fides—receiving the honor.

Plus, his infectious compositions, like "Kick Those Feet," "Bopstacle Course" and "Pretty Blue Eyes," aren't as widely known as they should be in the 21st century. That is, unless Gerry has something to say about it.

The Creative Whirlwind Of Gerry Gibbs

The apple doesn't fall far from the tree: Gerry Gibbs is as loquacious and driven as his father. Moreover, time is elastic on Planet Gibbs: What would typically be a half-hour conversation might stretch to more than three times that length.

"When he's explaining stuff, his mind is going 20,000 miles an hour," Patrice Rushen tells GRAMMY.com. "He might skip a lot of information that it would be of value for you to try to keep up with where he's going." For example: "'There's no bass player in this session.' [Pauses.] OK. 'Well, you'll be playing with [pianist] Larry Goldings.' [Pauses even longer.] OK? 'Larry's going to play the organ.' OK, got it. Now I'm piecing it together."

Put a man like this in pandemic house arrest, and he'll do something like write and record an entire song every day in an 18-day spree while playing all the instruments. And that's what Gerry did. He sent the resulting album, Emotional Pandemic, to 500 people on his email list. One of them happened to be Corea, who he'd been friendly with before but never worked with.

Corea took to Gerry immediately and emailed him, eager to learn about his creative process. "I was pretty freaked out," Gerry admits. "Friends of mine hadn't had time to listen to it, and here's Chick, who's so busy, and he listened to it numerous times." Gerry sent Corea his phone number; they talked for two hours and became fast friends.

"One time, at almost 3:00 in the morning, the phone rang, and it was Chick," Gerry says. "My wife sees the phone and I say, 'He must have butt-dialed me.' I answer the phone, and he says [loudly] 'Guess whooo!' I don't care. Chick could have woken me up every night, and it would be fine. It's Chick."

After Corea listened to Journey to Parts Unknown, another album Gerry made during lockdown—this one comprised of solo piano compositions—he inquired about adapting the tunes to include bass and drums.

"Then I realized, 'My label can't afford him,'" Gerry says. He offered to put his people in touch with Corea's people; Corea waved it away. "He was just like, 'No, no, no. Don't worry about that. I don't care about that. Let's just do it.'"

There was another potential wrinkle: Gerry's compositions are incredibly elaborate, so much so that Corea requested advance time with the charts. Plus, with COVID as a factor, lengthy rehearsals weren't possible. So rather than composing streamlined, improv-friendly music, Gerry decided to play his father's music instead.

"It's a tribute to my dad, but it's not a tribute because he's my dad," he says. "His music was some of the most important music for me growing up. It was my way to put my take on something that I grew up with that had a huge influence on me." While on a stroll through his neighborhood, he called everyone who ultimately would be involved with the record. They were in.

Gibbs told Corea he was going to change direction and play his father's music instead. Corea took to the idea enthusiastically, even asking to write an original song for the record: "Tango for Terry."

"All of us had so much faith in his judgment and his ability to work out the situations that were beyond everyone's expectations and experience."    —Ron Carter

When it came time to track the music in various locations, none of the musicians were rusty after being housebound for months. "I was a little apprehensive about going into the studio, but I needed to play," Keezer says. "I was very happy that he called me for the project, especially with Christian on bass." 

Gerry's curatorial and leaderly acumen struck all the musicians involved. "All of us had so much faith in his judgment and his ability to work out the situations that were beyond everyone's expectations and experience," Ron Carter tells GRAMMY.com. Barron adds, "Gerry is very creative in terms of coming up with different kinds of projects. It's not always the same thing, which I love about him."

For "Chick's Tune," a spin on Terry's "Hey Jim" with nine out of 10 of the musicians taking a solo, Gerry matched the tempo to a 1961 recording of his father and spliced his vibraphone solo to the music. "Gerry's very good at [working with] pre-recorded elements to play to, as far as the production side," Larry Goldings tells GRAMMY.com. "Gerry's very clever at editing."

Notably absent from his namesake song, however, was Corea.

The Final Musical Fires Of Chick Corea

By all accounts, Corea was strong and upbeat during the sessions. However, when it came time to tackle "Hey Jim," "Chick called me and said, 'I can't play on it because I'm not feeling good. I've got a pain in my ribs. Can we postpone this for three or four weeks?'" Gerry recalls. "I said, 'Of course, Chick.'"

"And then I spoke to his management," he says. "Chick was gone."

In a massive shock to the global jazz community, Corea passed away on February 9, 2021, from a rare form of cancer. He embodied energetic creativity for a musician in his autumn years; the internet was full of his recent videos and masterclasses. With about a month left, Corea got his affairs in order and wrote a statement to the world.

"I want to thank all of those along my journey who have helped keep the music fires burning bright," he said. "It is my hope that those who have an inkling to play, write, perform or otherwise, do so. If not for yourself then for the rest of us. It's not only that the world needs more artists, it's also just a lot of fun."

"My dad always said, 'People remember the very beginning, and they always remember the end. They don't always remember everything in the middle'... That's what I try to remember: What are the bookends? Are they really memorable?" —Gerry Gibbs

"I was so hurt and disappointed that, finally, I got to hook up with Chick and that we were going to get together and play after COVID," Gerry says. "It's a little eerie. When you're a little kid, you don't think, 'One day I'll play with Chick and when it happens, it'll be the last thing he'll ever do.'" 

Gerry suggested they repurpose the track to be a tribute to their fallen friend. Terry agreed and proposed a new title—"Hey Chick." The music sounds as radiant, eager and playful as its namesake.

"My dad always said, 'People remember the very beginning, and they always remember the end. They don't always remember everything in the middle,'" Gerry says. "That always struck me as very important with a lot of music that I love. That's what I try to remember: What are the bookends? Are they really memorable?"

Terry and Gerry Gibbs. Photo courtesy of Gerry Gibbs.

A Father's Verdict

One critical question remains: What did Terry think of the final product?

"There's nothing greater than to hear someone play a song you wrote and interpret it their own way," he marvels. "You're talking about the heavyweights of heavyweights. Everyone is a bandleader."

"When he told me about all these guys he tried to get, I thought the COVID got to him or he was completely out of his bird!" he exclaims. "How did he get those guys, especially with this disease going around?"

Buster Williams has an answer: Despite the extraordinary circumstances, there was a "business as usual" vibe among the musicians. "We do record dates all the time, you know? You never know what's going to be the result of a record date," he tells GRAMMY.com. "You're sort of like, 'This is what I do.' But I was very pleased when I heard the complete record that they put together."

"When he told me about all these guys he tried to get, I thought the COVID got to him or he was completely out of his bird!" —Terry Gibbs

In a period of frustration over the perceived NEA Jazz Master snub, Songs From My Father proved to be a balm for the family. "[My father] said 'This is better than getting an award,'" Gerry says proudly. "He was really excited." 

And while this ultimate act of paternal respect touches Terry deeply as he approaches a century on this planet, he's not going to let his son off that easily.

"I used to be a boxer," he clarifies. "I can still beat the heck out of him if I want to."

In Remembrance: Chick Corea Played In More Ways Than One

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GRAMMY SoundChecks With Gavin DeGraw

GRAMMYs/Dec 3, 2014 - 05:06 am

On Aug. 28 Nashville Chapter GRAMMY U members took part in GRAMMY SoundChecks with Gavin DeGraw. Approximately 30 students gathered at music venue City Hall and watched DeGraw play through some of the singles from earlier in his career along with "Cheated On Me" from his latest self-titled album.

In between songs, DeGraw conducted a question-and-answer session and inquired about the talents and goals of the students in attendance. He gave inside tips to the musicians present on how to make it in the industry and made sure that every question was answered before moving onto the next song.

 

Juan Gabriel named 2009 Latin Recording Academy Person Of The Year

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Juan Gabriel named 2009 Latin Recording Academy Person Of The Year

Annual star-studded gala slated for Nov. 4 in Las Vegas during 10th Annual Latin GRAMMY Week celebration

GRAMMYs/May 15, 2017 - 01:36 pm

 GRAMMY.com

 Internationally renowned singer/songwriter/performer Juan Gabriel will be celebrated as the 2009 Latin Recording Academy Person of the Year, it was announced today by The Latin Recording Academy. Juan Gabriel, chosen for his professional accomplishments as well as his commitment to philanthropic efforts, will be recognized at a star-studded concert and black tie dinner on Nov. 4 at the Mandalay Bay in Las Vegas, Nev. 

The "Celebration with Juan Gabriel" gala will be one of the most prestigious events held during Latin GRAMMY week, a celebration that culminates with the 10th Annual Latin GRAMMY Awards ceremony. The milestone telecast will be held at Mandalay Bay Events Center in Las Vegas on Nov. 5 and will be broadcast live on the Univision Television Network at 8 p.m. Eastern/7 p.m. Central. 

"As we celebrate this momentous decade of the Latin GRAMMYs, The Latin Recording Academy and its Board of Trustees take great pride in recognizing Juan Gabriel as an extraordinary entertainer who never has forgotten his roots, while at the same time having a global impact," said Latin Recording Academy President Gabriel Abaroa. "His influence on the music and culture of our era has been tremendous, and we welcome this opportunity to pay a fitting tribute to a voice that strongly resonates within our community.

Over the course of his 30-year career, Juan Gabriel has sold more than 100 million albums and has performed to sold-out audiences throughout the world. He has produced more than 100 albums for more than 50 artists including Paul Anka, Lola Beltran, Rocío Dúrcal, and Lucha Villa among many others. Additionally, Juan Gabriel has written more than 1,500 songs, which have been covered by such artists as Marc Anthony, Raúl Di Blasio, Ana Gabriel, Angelica María, Lucia Mendez, Estela Nuñez, and Son Del Son. In 1986, Los Angeles Mayor Tom Bradley declared Oct. 5 "The Day of Juan Gabriel." The '90s saw his induction into Billboard's Latin Music Hall of Fame and he joined La Opinion's Tributo Nacional Lifetime Achievement Award recipients list. 

At the age of 13, Juan Gabriel was already writing his own songs and in 1971 recorded his first hit, "No Tengo Dinero," which landed him a recording contract with RCA. Over the next 14 years, he established himself as Mexico's leading singer/songwriter, composing in diverse styles such as rancheras, ballads, pop, disco, and mariachi, which resulted in an incredible list of hits ("Hasta Que Te Conocí," "Siempre En Mi Mente," "Querida," "Inocente Pobre Amigo," "Abrázame Muy Fuerte," "Amor Eterno," "El Noa Noa," and "Insensible") not only for himself  but for many leading Latin artists. In 1990, Juan Gabriel became the only non-classical singer/songwriter to perform at the Palacio de Bellas Artes in Mexico City and the album release of that concert, Juan Gabriel En Vivo Desde El Palacio De Bellas Artes, broke sales records and established his iconic status. 

After a hiatus from recording, Juan Gabriel released such albums as Gracias Por Esperar, Juntos Otra Vez, Abrázame Muy Fuerte, Los Gabriel…Para Ti, Juan Gabriel Con La Banda…El Recodo, and El Mexico Que Se Nos Fue, which were all certified gold and/or platinum by the RIAA. In 1996, to commemorate his 25th anniversary in the music industry, BMG released a retrospective set of CDs entitled 25 Aniversario, Solos, Duetos, y Versiones Especiales, comprised appropriately of 25 discs.   

In addition to his numerous accolades and career successes, Juan Gabriel has been a compassionate and generous philanthropist. He has donated all proceeds from approximately 10 performances a year to his favorite children's foster homes, and proceeds from fan photo-ops go to support Mexican orphans. In 1987, he founded Semjase, an orphanage for approximately 120 children, which also serves as a music school with music, recreation and video game rooms. Today, he continues to personally fund the school he opened more than 22 years ago.   

Juan Gabriel will have the distinction of becoming the 10th Latin Recording Academy Person of the Year honoree, and joins a list of artists such as Gloria Estefan, Gilberto Gil, Juan Luis Guerra, Julio Iglesias, Ricky Martin, and Carlos Santana among others who have been recognized. 

For information on purchasing tickets or tables to The Latin Recording Academy Person of the Year tribute to Juan Gabriel, please contact The Latin Recording Academy ticketing office at 310.314.8281 or ticketing@grammy.com.

Set List Bonus: Bumbershoot 2013
Grizzled Mighty perform at Bumbershoot on Sept. 1

Photo: The Recording Academy

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Set List Bonus: Bumbershoot 2013

GRAMMYs/Dec 3, 2014 - 04:22 am

Welcome to The Set List. Here you'll find the latest concert recaps for many of your favorite, or maybe not so favorite, artists. Our bloggers will do their best to provide you with every detail of the show, from which songs were on the set list to what the artist was wearing to which out-of-control fan made a scene. Hey, it'll be like you were there. And if you like what you read, we'll even let you know where you can catch the artist on tour. Feel free to drop us a comment and let us know your concert experience. Oh, and rock on.

By Alexa Zaske
Seattle

This past Labor Day weekend meant one thing for many folks in Seattle: Bumbershoot, a three-decade-old music and arts event that consumed the area surrounding the Space Needle from Aug. 31–Sept. 2. Amid attendees wandering around dressed as zombies and participating in festival-planned flash mobs to Michael Jackson's "Thriller," this year the focus was on music from the Pacific Northwest region — from the soulful sounds of Allen Stone and legendary female rockers Heart, to the highly-awaited return of Death Cab For Cutie performing their 2003 hit album Transatlanticism in its entirety.

The festival started off on day one with performances by synth-pop group the Flavr Blue, hip-hop artist Grynch, rapper Nacho Picasso, psychedelic pop group Beat Connection, lively rapper/writer George Watsky, hip-hop group the Physics, and (my personal favorite), punk/dance band !!! (Chk Chk Chk). Also performing on day one was Seattle folk singer/songwriter Kris Orlowski, who was accompanied by the Passenger String Quartet. As always, Orlowski's songs were catchy and endearing yet brilliant and honest.

Day one came to a scorching finale with a full set from GRAMMY-nominated rock group Heart. Kicking off with their Top 20 hit "Barracuda," the set spanned three decades of songs, including "Heartless," "Magic Man" and "What About Love?" It became a gathering of Seattle rock greats when, during Heart's final song, Pearl Jam guitarist Mike McCready joined for 1976's "Crazy On You."

Day two got off to an early start with performances from eccentric Seattle group Kithkin and Seattle ladies Mary Lambert and Shelby Earl, who were accompanied by the band Le Wrens. My highlight of the day was the Grizzled Mighty — a duo with a bigger sound than most family sized bands. Drummer Whitney Petty, whose stage presence and skills make for an exciting performance, was balanced out by the easy listening of guitarist and lead singer Ryan Granger.

Then the long-awaited moment finally fell upon Seattle when, after wrapping a long-awaited tour with the Postal Service, singer/songwriter Ben Gibbard returned to Seattle to represent another great success of the Pacific Northwest — Death Cab For Cutie. The band celebrated the 10-year anniversary of their album Transatlanticism by performing it from front to back. While a majority of attendees opted to watch the set from an air-conditioned arena, some of us recognized the uniqueness of this experience and enjoyed the entire set lying in the grass where the entire performance was streamed. 

Monday was the day for soul and folk. Local blues/R&B group Hot Bodies In Motion have been making their way through the Seattle scene with songs such as "Old Habits," "That Darkness" and "The Pulse." Their set was lively and enticing to people who have seen them multiple times or never at all.

My other highlights of the festival included the Maldives, who delivered a fun performance with the perfect amount of satirical humor and folk. They represent the increasing number of Pacific Northwest bands who consist of many members playing different sounds while still managing to stay cohesive and simple. I embraced the return of folk/pop duo Ivan & Alyosha with open arms and later closed my festival experience with local favorite Stone.

For music fans in Seattle and beyond, the annual Bumbershoot festival is a must-attend.

(Alexa Zaske is the Chapter Assistant for The Recording Academy Pacific Northwest Chapter. She's a music enthusiast and obsessed with the local Seattle scene.)

Neil Portnow Addresses Diversity & Inclusion, Looks Ahead During Speech At 2019 GRAMMYs

Neil Portnow and Jimmy Jam

Photo: Michael Kovac/Getty Images

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Neil Portnow Addresses Diversity & Inclusion, Looks Ahead During Speech At 2019 GRAMMYs

Jimmy Jam helps celebrate the outgoing President/CEO of the Recording Academy on the 61st GRAMMY Awards

GRAMMYs/Feb 11, 2019 - 10:58 am

As Neil Portnow's tenure as Recording Academy President/CEO draws to its end, five-time GRAMMY winner Jimmy Jam paid tribute to his friend and walked us through a brief overview of some of the Academy's major recent achievements, including the invaluable work of MusiCares, the GRAMMY Museum, Advocacy and more.

Portnow delivered a brief speech, acknowledging the need to continue to focus on issues of diversity and inclusion in the music industry. He also seized the golden opportunity to say the words he's always wanted to say on the GRAMMY stage, saying, "I'd like to thank the Academy," showing his gratitude and respect for the staff, elected leaders and music community he's worked with during his career at the Recording Academy. "We can be so proud of what we’ve all accomplished together," Portnow added.

"As I finish out my term leading this great organization, my heart and soul are filled with gratitude, pride, for the opportunity and unequal experience," he continued. "Please know that my commitment to all the good that we do will carry on as we turn the page on the next chapter of the storied history of this phenomenal institution."

Full Winners List: 61st GRAMMY Awards