Terry Gibbs

Dream-Band-Vol-5-The-Big-Cat

Dream Band. Vol. 5: The Big Cat

  • Release Date: 29 Oct 2002
  • CCD-7657-2

with Joe Maini, Charlie Kennedy, Richie Kamuca, Bill Perkins, Jack Nimitz, Al Porcino, Ray Triscari, Conte Candoli, Stu Williamson, Frank Huggins, Frank Rosolino, Vern Friley, Bob Edmondson, Pat Moran, Buddy Clark, Mel Lewis

Recorded live at the Summit in Hollywood; January 1961.

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ABOUT TERRY GIBBS

Terry Gibbs

 

Terry Gibbs’s career as a vibraphonist and bandleader spans a full 50 years, nearly 50 albums, and hundreds of concert, club, and TV appearances. The Brooklyn-born child prodigy, who went on his first national tour at age 12, became a professional musician in 1946, following a three-year Army stint. He joined Woody Herman’s herd in ’48, and a year or so later formed his own band.

Gibbs was voted the top vibes player by Down Beat and Metronome magazines from 1950 to 1956. He also has the distinction of being the only person nominated in four categories of the Playboy Jazz Poll since its inception: Best Vibraphonist, Best Quartet, Best Big Band, and Best Bandleader.

In 1959 his Dream Band, which had been performing all over the place for some six years, was named “Best Band in the World” in the Down Beat Critics’ Poll. Last year, Contemporary released a ’59 Dream Band recording to critical acclaim; a followup has just been issued.

Below, the loquacious Gibbs fills in some details about how the Dream Band came into being.


At the time I moved out to California, in 1957, there were rehearsal bands going on, but there were no big bands because people like Dave Brubeck were making as much money with a quartet as Count Basie was with a big band, so it wasn’t feasible. I had done a big band album in New York that I wasn’t satisfied with, and I’d come up with an idea for another big band date. The premise was to take six different big band leaders and take two tunes that each one had made famous: take out 16 bars, or whatever it was in the tune that made it famous, and voice it out and put it in our arrangement—like Artie Shaw’s clarinet chorus in “Stardust,” which was in volume 1 [of Dream Band, Contemporary 7647].

Bill Holman had a rehearsal band going, and so did Med Flory, and Bob Florence, and I wanted to put together something of my own and record it. But I didn’t just want to go into the studio. I wanted to do it with a rehearsal band. The problem was that the union wouldn’t allow it: one of the most famous arranger/bandleaders of that time got fined $1000 from the union for rehearsing for a record date.

At the same time this was going on, I had this music already written for the record date, and I was asked to play a club called the Seville with a quintet [around March 1959]. They usually had Latin music in that club, but they were dying, they were about to close. They asked me to come in on a Tuesday night, and everything went nice for a Tuesday. Then I had an idea. Since you could rehearse for a job, but not for a record date, I asked the clubowner: “How’d you like to have a 16-piece band for the same money you’re giving me for a five-piece band?” Scale was $15 a night in those days and I had enough money to pay 16 musicians. So I figured we could rehearse for the job and the record date at the same time.

We changed the bandstand to accommodate a big band. The place held about 300 people, but we were expecting about 20 or 30 because big bands weren’t doing any business. That was fine—we just wanted to rehearse.

I did some interviews on local TV shows, and Steve Allen gave me a big plug on his coast-to-coast show, telling everyone in California that I’d be appearing with a big band that Tuesday night. We recorded all afternoon and finished three-quarters of the album, and got to the club about 9:30 for a 10:00 start. We went to the back room to get organized because all we had were 12 arrangements, and we had to play them all night. So I said “Letter A, Conte Candoli you play 100 choruses, at letter B Frank Rosolino you play a million choruses,” and so forth. We’d just make up backgrounds and head arrangements.

At about five to 10, when we walked out to do it, the place was packed—300 people in the joint with a line waiting to get in. In that audience we had June Haver and Fred MacMurray, Ginger Rogers, Louella Parsons, every musician in town. When I saw all that, I brought everyone in the back room again, and made my first rule. No drinking off the bandstand, you drink onstage. We made it a party, and the music you’re hearing happened in the middle of all this!

We played there for about four or five Tuesdays in a row, and it was the same thing. Nine thirty, there’d be 20 or 30 people in the place, but by 10 it was packed.

At that time [engineer] Wally Heider and I met, and talked about doing a live record date, because the enthusiasm of the audience was so high. I had Wally come in to tape the band playing music we’d already recorded. Then we’d go back to the studio to listen, and I’d say, “Let me tell you what I want to hear.” We learned from each other. Then he’d come back to the club and record what we did. That music became volume 1 [Contemporary 7647].

Later that year [November 1959] we went into the Sundown in Hollywood. By that time we’d already done another studio album, and I was gonna do my first album live. When Wally came to the new club to record us, we already had the music of this album together. He came back the next night and that became volume 2 [Contemporary 7652].


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