By Philip Booth, Jazz Times
Five musicians, 40 instruments, 19 interrelated compositions, five consecutive days in a Queens home studio, 66 minutes of music: By the numbers alone, Gerry Gibbs’ latest batch of original tunes is quite a feat. The sprawling disc, something of a followup to the drummer/composer’s 2017 salute to Weather Report, has Gibbs and Alex Collins, the pianist/saxophonist from that disc, joined by bassist Gianluca Renzi, flutist Mayu Saeki, and vocalist/percussionist Kyeshie Gibbs.
“Suite for Our People,” the title given to this collection, split into a first set of 11 tunes and a second of 8, might remind some of the spiritually yearning, unity-groove vibe of fusion albums by the likes of Return to Forever, particularly 1977’s “Musicmagic.” On one track, over flickering piano, a squiggly synthesizer line, and driving drums and percussion and timpani strikes, a singer, one of multiple voices heard throughout the disc, intones, “Music for you, music for me, and music from the universe.” Gibbs also nods to RTF’s leader on “Chick Corea,” all swirling keys, hand claps, and rolling marimba.
These artfully layered pieces, alternately laidback and frenetic and spiked with grand gestures and rising-and-falling wordless vocals, harmonies stacked high, often verge on the cinematic. Catchy themes, like the leapfrogging melody of “The journey begins,” pop up and then just as quickly seem to vanish. And there’s no shortage of invigorating solos on bass, vibraphone, and various keyboards. The final track, “We now return you back to your reality,” offers fade-in, fade-out sounds akin to that of a radio being switched from channel to channel, picking up a globe’s worth of intriguing sounds, not unlike the heavily textured music heard throughout the previous 18 tracks.