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Gibbs, Gerry

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Since the beginning of time there has been the telling of oral history. Stories have been passed down through generations, of family, of ancestry, of traditions, of myth, all indispensable to human identity. In fact, it is essential for a people to retain this history because it defines the character found at man's core.

It's the same with music; it's an "aural," rather than an "oral," telling of history. Gerry Gibbs and the Electric Thrasher Orchestra have taken it upon themselves to retell an important chapter in musical history: the one originally written by Miles Davis.

Miles Davis 1967-1975, on Whaling City Sound, is a miraculous sonic blur of a tribute, a barrage of noise Miles and his millions of fans would, and will, surely love. Gibbs had already taken a shot at early '70s Miles, with his "Bitches Brew Orchestra," and was eager to follow that up with another shot at it. In fact, Gibbs has been tackling Davis' material for over 20 years. This does not make him an expert, though it does paint him as someone up for wild-eyed challenges.

Gibbs recruited a band of like-minded instrumentalists. Pianists Andy Langham and Rob Hardt were part of Gibbs' original Bitches Brew Orchestra, as was bassist Brandon Rivas. Another bass player and longtime Gibbs protégé Essiet Okon. Essiet joined on, as did guitarist Mike Hoffman, a man who played a year with Tony Williams, Miles' own acclaimed drummer, and an expert on the period. There were many others responsible for contributing to the project. It was indeed a team effort.

Then the music began. Starting at noon, Gibbs and company blasted through dozens of Davis compositions from the era. They emerged after 16 manic hours of blowing, strumming, pounding and bending with four sets, each one consisting of 65-minutes of music. There were no gimmicks, no unnecessary hooks, just pure and unfiltered Miles Davis, with the tapes rolling and the creative juices flowing. Two of those would make the final, two-disc set.

Many of Miles' best were laid down, from his customary opening track "Directions," a Zawinul composition, to "Nefertiti," "In a Silent Way," "Sanctuary," and "Pinocchio." It is pointless to begin just a superficial discussion of these very deep performances. They need to be heard-both discs-not note for note, but taken as a whole. They possess the spirit of Davis as heard through the voices of lions. They are played with vigor and determination, with color and intensity.

After the sessions, Gibbs was so blown away by the experience that he had to simply take stock of his crew's creative achievement. "We drove around LA for five hours, with a twelve-pack of Cokes, listening to all the music we had laid down," says Gibbs in his liner notes, "and got back to my apartment at 6am after driving 250 miles."

So, essentially, there were two journeys on that amazing day; one that found Gibbs and his uber-talented friends traversing across the sonic landscape of Miles Davis' brilliant work-over the peaks and down through the valleys of one of jazz's truest legends-and one afterwards in which Gibbs had to come to grips with the ground he had just covered, by literally covering ground of his own. The only way you can come close to understanding the speed of sound is to make sound of your own.

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