Scribblers Music Review

Michael Gibbs & the NDR Bigband, “On the Lookout/Far Away.” Casual concept. Understated tribute. Or does it count as a tribute if the tributee plays along. The album is intriguingly titled “Michael Gibbs & the NDR Bigband Play a Bill Frisell Set List.” Gibbs has been a mentor and teacher and employer of Frisell, who was first drawn to Gibbs when he realized he’d written many songs by some of his favorite modern jazz acts. This album is billed as “Bill Frisell’s first-ever appearance as the featured soloist on a big band session,” and blends the glory of a large ensemble and written-out arrangements with the unique splendor of two talents who connect almost telepathically. Things sound improvised, except for it also sounded exquisitely planned and prepared. Also, for a big band endeavor (17 pieces or so; lots of brass) it’s amazingly mellow. It’s like prog rock without the annoyance of one vain, ambitious synthesizer geek running everything. It’s Gibbs & Frisell’s show, but they don’t forget who they’re surrounded by.