This piece originally posted to JazzProfiles on
June 22, 2008 and you can still locate it in the blog archives under that date or by clicking here.
We decided to modify and re-post it for a number of reasons, not the least of which is the video that you see below which was not available at the time of the original posting.
Sampling it will afford you the opportunity to actually hear the dream band in action. The audio track is Marty Paich’s arrangement of Softy, In a Morning
. The solos are by Terry Gibbs [vibes], Stu Williamson and Conte Candoli [trumpet], Med Flory [tenor saxophone], Joe Maini [alto saxophone] and Lou Levy on piano. Sunrise
We also wanted to enhance the original feature with these quotations by a number of Jazz notables in order to share their thoughts and feelings about this great band.
“Probably the greatest thrill I've ever had in my whole music career was standing in front of the Dream Band back in 1959. Two things come to mind. One was the musical sound that was coming from the musicians on the bandstand; the other was seeing the audience's reaction to the music.
Well, with the release of last year's Dream Band album and now the record at hand, we're all in front of the band. The audience reaction (as you can see by what the critics have been writing about the Dream Band) is as ecstatic as it was nearly 30 years ago. And I know I've been feeling that thrill all over again.”
-Terry Gibbs (April 1987)
"When I first put Terry Gibbs' Dream Band (Contemporary 7647) album on the turntable and listened, the power, drive, and enthusiasm of the music was astounding....
"Twenty-six (sic) years old, yet still as fresh as any big band of its type playing today. ...Delivers sustained excellence."
—John McDonough (Down Beat)
"One glance at the personnel Gibbs assembled is reason enough for this album's title."
—Miles Jordan (Jazz Times)
"...Most of the tunes are hoary swing classics; but each one is brought to a furious boil by the band, a short-lived but red-hot unit that ranks with the very best in the postwar period."
—Jim Miller (Newsweek)
"There's a big big-band renaissance going on, and it's showing up in new recordings by bands old and new....The pick of the lot, though, is Terry Gibbs' Dream Band"
—Ray Hoffman (BusinessWeek)
"The most exciting jazz big band release in ages."
—Cash Box (Jazz Feature Pick)
"The best jazz big band album released in 1986 did not win a Grammy; in fact, it wasn't even nominated for a Grammy. That may be because the best big band album released in 1986...was recorded in March of 1959.
"The best big band album of 1986. And, perhaps, the best big band of 1987—there is another live volume due from Contemporary in May. And—who knows?—maybe the best big band albums of 1988 and 1989."
—Lee Jeske (Cash Box)
"The band, perhaps the best of its time, obviously was caught at its zenith....
"Forceful, flowing, full of fire, playing in tune, admirably handling dynamics and shading within each arrangement, it literally blows you away."
—Burt Korall (International Musician)
"Clearly one of the most ridiculously hard swinging big bands in 1959. Loaded with heavies from the LA. jazz pool of hot players, vibraphonist Gibbs and his enthusiastic leadership had this band roaring from the starting line."
—Dr. Herb Wong (Jazz Educators Journal)
"Unrestrained joy is exactly what the listener gets on Dream Band, which comes with a dream repertoire...."
—Jim Bisco (
Evening News) Buffalo
"[Dream Band] is the best big band album I've heard in years.... It's timeless music—and it swings from note one....#1 Best Jazz Album, 1986."
—Jay Roebuck (
Register) Orange County, CA
"It's one of the year's best big band records."
—John A. Marcille (
" * * * * * .... Features some of the hottest big band sounds on vinyl. If it doesn't make you jump up and dance, check for a pulse."
—Larry Nager (
"Dream Band has all the right stuff: tight ensemble passages, vigorous solos and sharp arrangements."
—Eric Shepard (Journal-News,
) Nyack, NY
And, the editorial staff has also augmented the original piece by adding John Tynan’s insert notes to Terry Gibbs Dream Band, Flying Home, Vol. 3 [Contemporary Original Jazz CD – 7654-2]. These are included following
Jack Tracy’s liner notes to Terry Gibbs Dream Band: The Big Cat – Volume 5 [Contemporary CCD 7657-2], which he produced. In them, John tells the story of the tenuous manner in which the band came into existence and how its first appearances were almost its last.
Steven Cerra, copyright protected; all rights reserved.
Whether it’s the arrangements, the ensemble playing, the solos or the rhythm section, one would be hard-pressed to find a better big band in the history of Jazz than the Terry Gibbs Big Band.
Although it existed for only 3 years [1959-1962], performed in relative obscurity because it never toured and didn’t have most of its recorded output released until a quarter of a century after it folded, those who experienced it in person during its brief existence have come to refer to it by another name – The Terry Gibbs Dream Band.
I would have missed it too if it weren’t for the circumstance of opposites attracting in a high school band room.
The high school in question was a scant few miles from
just over the hill in Hollywood which with its then Lockheed aircraft plant and Warner Brothers movie studio was a largely suburban community nestled in the foothills of the eastern Burbank, CA San Fernando Valley.
While attending high school in this lovely part of
Southern California in the late 1950s, I had the immense good fortune to make friends with a somewhat quiet and largely introspective trumpet player [quite a feat for an outgoing, largely extroverted drummer]. We just hit it off. In addition to his many admirable qualities of personality and character, he owned a car and was a big band fanatic.
On the subject of big bands in general and trumpet players in particular, I soon found out that he had vast knowledge and impeccable taste and I usually deferred to him on both on these subjects with very satisfying results.
Thanks to him, I was exposed to the wonderment produced by the Maynard Ferguson on that bands “Newport” and Birdland Roulette LPs, the classic Marty Paich Art Pepper + 11 Contemporary LP [with the puckish trumpet of Jack Sheldon] and anything to do with the latest, annual release by the Stan
Kenton Orchestra [trumpet heaven].
So, one Monday night in 1960 when he picked me up and said that we were going to Hollywood to catch the Terry Gibbs Big Band at The Summit on Sunset Boulevard I just tacitly consented while asking him to turn up KNOB [the FM Jazz station – he was so cool he had an FM radio in his car].
Prior to this occasion, I had very little knowledge of Terry Gibbs. I knew him to be a vibraphone player who had been with Woody Herman’s band and who fronted a quartet with Frankie Capp on drums that played the
By the time “we” discovered them, I gather that Terry’s band had been playing together for over a year, usually on Tuesday nights at two other
Hollywood locales: first at the on Seville Santa Monica Boulevard and later at the Sundown, a more glamorous location on the Sunset Strip.
was a huge super club cum ballroom type facility with a $5.00 cover charge and a rarely enforced two drink minimum which in our case translated into an all-you-could-drink Coca Cola for $1.75; we tipped the most accommodating cocktail waitress .25 cents – each! Summit
For that, we got to hear almost four hours of a most incredible big band book of arrangements courtesy of Bill Holman, Bobby Brookmeyer, Shorty
Rogers, Al Cohn, Lennie Niehaus, Marty Paich and Med Flory.
And was it any wonder that my trumpet playing buddy made a bee-line for the front row of tables with a trumpet section that on any given evening would be composed of four monster players selected from the following list: Al Porcino, Ray Triscari, Stu Williamson, Conte Candoli, Johnny Audino, Frank Huggins, Lee Katzman?
The trombone section was usually comprised of Frank Rosolino, Vern Friley and Bob Edmonson with Bill Smiley and Joe Cadena as subs.
The saxes was anchored by Charlie
Kennedy [lead alto] and Joe Maini [solo alto], Bill Holman, Med Flory, Bill Perkins or Richie Kamuca on tenor and Jack Nimitz on baritone saxophone.
The rhythm section was made up of Pete Jolly, Lou Levy or Pat Moran on piano, Buddy Clark or Max Bennett on bass and the always cookin’ Mel Lewis on drums who was quoted as saying to
Ted Gioia in his West Coast Jazz: Modern Jazz in California, 1945-60: [p. 164]: “I don’t think there was ever a better band than this one, including my own.”
Of Lewis, Gioia had this to say: “Lewis possessed the rare skill of being able to propel a big band without overplaying – a talent of vital importance during his [earlier] tenure with the
Kenton band, whose heavy textures had been know to overpower more than one drummer.” [p. 166].
The mood at the club was very relaxed; it appeared that the musicians were glad to be out from under the rigors of playing in the movie and TV studios or dealing with the tedious nature of making the music for commercial and jingles. The fact that the musicians were enjoying themselves was certainly evident as they hooted and hollered to urge on the soloists [Terry’s in particular drew all sorts of ‘comments’ from Joe Maini along the lines of “Hammer, baby, hammer!]. You can hear this revelry and camaraderie in the background of the band’s in-performance recordings.
According to Gioia: “The Gibbs band is like a turbocharged roadster…the band’s pizzazz also stems from Gibbs penchant for dramatic flourishes and high-energy music. … Gibbs, ..., also apparently had a flair for bringing the best out of his musicians.” [p. 165]
Although most of the music recorded by the band remained unreleased in Terry’s possession until the late 1980’s when he finalized a deal with Fantasy for their production and distribution, there were some LPs issued on Verve and Mercury during the band’s existence. The Mercury albums were originally produced by
Jack Tracy who also worked with Terry as co-producer on the reissue of Terry Gibbs and his Exciting Big Band/Explosion [Mercury 20704] when it was converted to digital as Terry Gibbs Dream Band: The Big Cat – Volume 5 [Contemporary CCD 7657-2].
With Jack’s permission here are the insert notes that he wrote for the CD issue of this recording. After reading these notes, one can easily understand why Jack served as the editor of down beat magazine for many years. Any writer would be well-served by and proud to have such an editor. It’s an honor to share his writing with you on the JazzProfiles website.
Jack Tracy, copyright protected; all rights reserved.
“One day some 30 years ago I sat there listening to this excited voice in my ear on the telephone. No surprise; Terry Gibbs sounds excited even if he's only asking you what time it is.
Dick.'" he yelled. (For some reason he always felt that my surname entitles him to call me Dick.) "Dick, you've got to come out to
and record the band ... we're breaking it up every night at the California . Let's get Wally Heider and do a live date." Summit
Perhaps I should fill you in. At the time I was Jazz director for Mercury Records, based in
, and Gibbs was one of the top artists on the roster. He was a poll‑winner, worked regularly, enjoyed a strong following, and had a compellingly infectious personality. Matter of fact. he still does. He talks approximately as fast as he plays the vibes, and if hypers ever need a poster child, they should pick him. Wally Heider (God rest him) was, hands down, the best sound engineer who ever did a remote. No one since has been able to record a big band on location like Wally. It was in his blood. Chicago
To get me out there didn't take a lot of convincing on Gubenko's part. (I call him Gubenko. His surname entities me.) I'd heard the band before and I knew how good it was. Listening to it was much like riding a roller-coaster ‑ there was excitement, yelling, speed, giddiness. breath‑sucking, stomach‑tightening elation and just plain awe. Perhaps as good an ensemble band as ever was; certainly none have been perceptibly better. They came roaring out of the chute on every set, clean and high‑flying and with great pride in performance. Swing, dynamics, shading, crispness, and confidence were all there all the time and the phrase "joyous abandon" comes readily to mind when describing their playing. They could set a house on fire.
So I said yes, let's do it.
Besides, who in his right mind would pass up an expense‑covered trip to a
that was still lush and green, graffiti‑less and smog‑free and full of long‑legged, healthy blonde ladies with golden tans? Hollywood
So for three nights we recorded every set, and the fitting climax to this tale would of course be that the record was a smash hit and the Dream Band would become one of the biggies of the Sixties.
Because by the end of the 1950s big bands were desperately trying to stay alive. (Big jazz bands, anyway. You take Lawrence Welk ... Please.) Travel costs were up, jazz was on a down cycle, airplay was next to impossible to get, forget about TV, the Beatles came over from
and screwed up everything. England
The days of the big bands were over, save for an occasional dinosaur like Basie, Ellington, Herman, or
Kenton found hanging on for dear life, and the world of music had changed. Ever the second coming of Christ wouldn't have drawn a crowd if he had returned leading a band.
So although we didn't know it then, this was to be the last recorded gasp of the Terry Gibbs big band. For nearly 30 years, anyway, until a perceptive record company recognized that great is great no matter the date and has re‑released every album recorded by the Dream Band.
This one is the finale, and if you'll accept admittedly prejudiced opinion, it is even better than the preceding four. These are flawless performances of some beautifully written charts. I have listened to them many a time, first when they were initially released and more recently when preparing this essay, and I can't hear a single thing that should be changed, corrected, or improved upon. The band never played better.
Most of the credit for that should go to the leader. Yes, I know that a chain is never stronger than its weakest link, but Gubenko knows how to select personnel so that there are no sore thumbs or red asses among them, knows how to draw the best effort from every player, knows when to be boss and when to be one of the guys, knows how to pick tempos and pace a set according to the mood of an audience, can play hell out of his instrument and not just stand up front waving his arms, and sets everyone an example by giving 125 percent at all times. In short, he is one helluva bandleader, and had he been born ten years earlier would have been one of the biggest names of the swing era, when bands were bands and you'd better believe it.
I was always struck by the closeness of this band. One well remembers the Ellington orchestra, for example, where on any given day half the guys might not be talking to the other haft. or even to each other. Or Basie's outfits, where there were generally a couple of fiefdoms to be reckoned with. In other instances it might be the case of a star‑struck leader communicating with the troops only through an underling.
But this conglomeration of personalities somehow managed to act like a high school cheer team. There was the irrepressible alto saxist, Joe Maini, another of the God‑rest‑hims, leading the sax section, contributing those startling, angular solos, and cutting up something awful. The brass section was, to be truthful. plain raucous, with Al Porcino, Conte Candoli, and Frank Rosolino the chief truants. (When you hear the guys in Doc Severinsen's band on the
show yelling "Yo‑o," you know where it all started, don't you? On the Gibbs band.) And if there were any jealousies about anyone getting fewer solos than the next guy, or not being properly recognized, they were well hidden. This was a team that hit the bandstand ready to blow you out of the room. Carson
And if you have never experienced the electrifying shock of hearing a great jazz band up close in a nightclub, you are to be pitied. Concert halls are fine, jazz festivals are OK, but unless you've had your head in the lion's mouth at a Blue Note or Birdland or
and actually smelled his breath, you don't know what it was really like to physically feel the energy being generated and to be absorbed into it. Summit
You may have heard me say this before. but on some nights a band would come at you in waves, and you couldn't do much but sit there helplessly. You knew you were being had, and you knew you were being stripped of all propriety and decency, but you just didn't care. There was a joy unmatched, and somehow you had shared something deep and unspoken with those men on the bandstand that you'd never forget. It was thrilling, and if it has never happened to you I am truly sorry.
Gubenko's guys could do it to you. The rhythm section was tight, with Pat Moran on piano (in case you don't remember Pat, a Ms. goes in front of her name) and Buddy Clark (no, not the singer) on bass, with the marvelous Mel Lewis playing drums. Mel (damn, but it hurts to keep saying God rest him) looked sort of funny and all hunched up back there, peering nearsightedly over the ride cymbal, but he was so good. Every nuance of every chart, every little hole that needed filling, every breath that lead trumpeter Porcino took, every shading and inflection, there was Mel, right on top of ft.
Gibbs used to call him "Mel the Tailor" because “I had this old Jewish tailor in
Brooklyn who had bunions and he walked funny. Mel walked just like him, so I called him The Tailor and it stuck." In later years Mel was to tell people that he got his nickname because he played “tailor‑made drums," but many of us knew better.
As I was saying, Porcino played lead trumpet and he was about as good as they get, right in the same ballpark with Conrad Gozzo, Snooky Young. Johnny Audino, that bunch. Al talks ver‑r‑y slow‑w‑wly, and it has been said that a person could spend the better part of an afternoon listening to Porcino and Shorty
Rogers say hello.
Most of the trumpet solos came from Candoli and Stu Williamson. Conte blew with great verve, fire. and dash‑he came up listening to Dizzy. Stu’s solos were pretty, more ruminative. He was never in a hurry.
Rosolino (from now on I'm just abbreviating ‑God rest him" to G.R.H., OK?) simply leaped out of the trombone section on his solos. Blindingly facile. and full of musical humor, he would draw “who was that?" looks from the uninitiated after one of his rapid‑fire, take‑no‑prisoners sorties during which he took no prisoners.
Both tenor saxes in the section, Bill Perkins and Richie Kamuca, were also featured as soloists. Kamuca (G. R. H) always used to say he didn't like to play in big bands; he liked the looseness of small groups. But he was proud to play in this one, and often made that known to Gubenko. I loved Kamuca's playing: his solos were such a deep reflection of his quiet, thoughtful, and sensitive personality.
This band was a delightful crew, one that worked chiefly for the fun and fulfilling ness of it, certainly not the money. "We got paid scale at, the
," remembers Gubenko, "which at that time was $15 a night. I got double. $30, but gave half to the band manager. My bar bill was usually about $20, because I'd pick up a tab or two, so it cost me at least five bucks a night to work there. But I never had more fun or musical satisfaction in all my life." Summit
Neither did a lot of other people. And, please do me a favor. Put this disc on your machine. kick up the volume, to hell with the neighbors and stick your head in the lion's mouth.
You'll smell his breath.
© -John Tynan, copyright protected; all rights reserved.
“1959: Ike was old in the White House... Fidel was new in
... Sputnik was beeping around the earth... and the Terry Gibbs Dream Band was in orbit in Havana . Hollywood
It was all before the Cuban missile Crisis... before Lee Harvey Oswald... before
. And, sadly, it was after the heyday of the big jazz bands. But while that era was gone, what Terry and his merry men were doing at Vietnam 's Hollywood and Sundown clubs in 1959 was making big band jazz history. A generous sampling of what they did is upheld on this album. Seville
Terry's band was pointing the way—writing the book, if you will—for other large groups such as Gerry Mulligan's and the Mel Lewis-Thad Jones band that later wrote their own chapters.
The group brought by Terry into the
was originally formed for a Mercury record date. Under his contract, Terry had been recording one big band album a year in Seville with first class charts by Al Cohn and Manny Albam. But by 1958 Terry had relocated in the New York San Fernando Valley. His new home became a base for national bookings with the quartet.
Now there was the new '59 album to rehearse for, and Terry assembled a selection of charts by world-class writers, including Bill Holman, Marty Paich, Bob Brookmeyer, Al Cohn. The album idea was one of those "tribute to the great bandleaders" collections with tunes like Opus One and Stardust.
Rehearsing presented a bit of a problem because Musicians Union rules require band members to be paid for record date rehearsals, and the money simply wasn't there for that. But there was nothing in the rules that said a band could not rehearse, without payment to the members, for a nightclub job.
Then fate, in the unlikely person of a movie columnist named Eve Starr, intervened. Recently Terry retold the story. "She called me one day in early 1959," he said. "Eve was a friend of mine, and she told me about this club in
, place called the Hollywood on Seville Santa Monica Boulevard. She said the owner wanted to change the policy, the place was dying. The owner, Harry Schiller, really didn't know whether he wanted jazz; he wanted anything that would bring customers into the joint. Eve suggested I go talk to him."
Terry did and signed a contract for his quartet with Schiller. "I made him a proposition,’ Terry recalled. Schiller agreed to let Terry lead the big band at the club for one Tuesday night. Since Tuesday was virtually a dead night for
Hollywood nightclubs, and under the deal Schiller would pay the same money for the big band as for the quartet, how could he lose? It was done.
Terry Gibbs has always been a one-man, high-powered P-R machine when necessary. Now he swung on-line with a whirlwind telephone campaign, contacting every celebrity he knew in a lifetime in show business. Other band members did similarly. The weekend before the
's one-nighter, Terry appeared on the network Steve Allen Sunday night variety show and got a healthy plug from Allen. The stage was set. Seville
The Dream Band's opening was unique, even for
. Don't forget, this was an uncompromising jazz band—and a "kicks" band, with the cream of the recording studios and jazz scene there to have a ball. The club was packed. Celebrities abounded... Johnny Mercer, Steve Allen, Ella Fitzgerald, Dinah Shore, Louis Prima, movie stars Fred MacMurray (who began his show biz career playing alto sax in a dance band), June Haver, et al. Hollywood
For this jazz observer, being there was a given. I was West Coast editor/correspondent for Down Beat magazine. From the first bar of the first number, the impact of this band was as breathtaking as swallowing a double-shot of tequila straight. The ensemble and the soloists showed roaring spirit. The brass section played with such crashing brilliance that you had to shout with it. (If you listen carefully to the "Flying Home" track on this album, you'll hear altoman Joe Maini do a little shouting of his own—not for children's ears—just sheer exuberance.) The rhythm section, powered by drummer Mel Lewis, was ideal. And throughout, Terry's vibraharp, like a silverfish slipping and darting through the section passages. A joyous, memorable evening.
Schiller was beaming. And for the next nine Tuesday nights the Dream Band was the talk of the
music world... the jazz world, anyway. All this, with only a dozen charts in the book. Los Angeles
would probably have become the steady base for the Dream Band but Terry decided to accept an offer to take the band into a spot on the glamorous Sunset Strip for three weeks. The room was too small for that hollering powerhouse, and they had to share the bill with singer Andy Williams and comedian Frank Gorshin. That engagement for the Dream Band was a mistake. But before long the band was ensconced at another Sunset Strip club, the Sundown. And for the next eighteen months—except for two weeks at Major Riddle's Dunes in Seville — the Sundown became the band's home on Sundays, Mondays and Tuesdays. Las Vegas
At the time, Terry figured it cost him $1000 a month to keep the Dream Band going and about $20,000 lost in quartet bookings that he turned down. Perhaps his 1959 income tax return tells it best: In previous years he always wound up owing the
The story of the Dream Band is one of boundless enthusiasm and dedication by its members ... and by Terry Gibbs. He can make any band swing, and part of what he and the arrangers and the players did with this very special band is right here.
, Silver Lake 1988 Los Angeles
John Tynan, a journalist with ABC News since 1966, was West Coast Editor/Correspondent/ Jazz Critic with Down Beat Magazine from 1955 to 1965.”
It took almost a quarter-of-a century for most of the music by this dream of a band to make itself available. Don’t wait that long to get your copies of their recordings and listen to it as the opportunity to do may never come again. And it would be a shame to miss out on such a dream.