This is the twelfth album from Gerry Gibbs, the multi-instrumental leader of his trio Thrasher People. Unlike anything he has ever produced before, this epic, 19-part suite pays tribute to many cultures throughout the world, thus the title Our People. It sounds like a full orchestra when in fact it is the work of five multi-instrumentalists, 40 different instruments in all.
Two musicians are part of Gibbs’ Thrasher People Band. Acting as the principal soloist on the album, Alex Collins plays all keyboard parts as well as the marimba, vibes, soprano and alto saxophone, acoustic guitar, accordion, lead and background vocals and percussion. Gianluca Renzi performs all bass and string parts as well as background vocals and miscellaneous percussion. Gibbs himself recorded all percussion parts (drum set, congas, timpani) as well as auxiliary percussion, glockenspiel, electronic soundscapes, keyboards and some vocals. In addition to composing and performing, Gibbs engineered and mixed the tracks himself. Rounding out the group are two very special guests: Mayu Saeki, who performs all woodwind parts, vocals and percussion, and Kyeshie Gibbs, who, alongside Saeki and Collins, contributes most of the vocal parts with some additional percussion.
Gibbs was seeking a departure from consistently successful solo records, the last four of which reached #1 on the international jazz radio Jazz Week charts. Gibbs explains in the liners, “I knew I wanted to continue with this new Thrasher People band but make a few small changes and bring in some additions. I wanted to move the band into a different sound than before because I had a band that literally could ban orchestra on stage. Here is how it all went down….A few years ago I built a studio in my Queens apartment that I have lived in since 1991 and decided I would engineer and mix the whole project there. This also was an expense consideration because of how massive an undertaking this new CD would be. After getting permission from the label, I called the main members of the trio to explain that I was going to add two more musicians to the band. I explained that between the five of us, we played over forty instruments and that we would record all forty of those instruments over five consecutive days, tracking the musical soundtrack I had in mind.”
Gibbs spent two consecutive 16-hour days composing and arranging all 19 compositions for the different instruments, including a vocal choir. The music lies somewhere between classic jazz-rock fusion and orchestral far, reminiscent mostly of Chick Corea’s early Return to Forever work. But just as you’re settling into that kind of listening groove, unexpected passages will emerge. Gibbs is thematically presenting a message of unity, saying that collectively they channeled all the people that they have known collectively all over the world, a celebration of diversity.
There are overt nods to highly influential jazz artists as follows:
- “Scene 3 (Music from the Universe)” to Peter Erskine
- “Scene 7 (Oh Yeah !)” to Pharaoh Sanders
- “Scene 10” to Chick Corea, and named after him
- “Scene 15 (Mike & Lenny)” to Mike Clark & Lenny White
- “Scene 13 (Flying on The Wings of Fantasy)” to Wayne Shorter.
Additionally, echoes of vibraphonist Roy Ayers are in “Scene 3 (Music from the Universe)” and Hancock’s Headhunters in “Scene 6 (The Streets).”
Close your eyes, shut all the doors and windows. Put on your best set of headphones and be transported to several different worlds, from the somber gloom of “Boys Sent to Die” to the psychedelic “Volkswagens, Peace Signs & Dashikis” to the pure ecstasy of “Flying on the Wings of a Fantasy.” Appropriately, they close with “We Now Return You Back to Your Reality.” At that point, hit repeat. The music of Our People presents a plethora of sounds and emotions that own realities could not possibly offer.