Mike Gibbs is a composer, arranger and trombonist. A graduate of the Berklee College of Music, Boston, he has worked with many of the leading lights of the music world including Pat Metheny, John McLaughlin, John Scofield, Michael Mantler, Mike Stern, Joni Mitchell, Whitney Houston and Peter Gabriel.
Mike Gibbs was born September 25th, 1937, in Salisbury, Southern Rhodesia (now Harare, Zimbabwe) and grew up playing trombone and piano. In 1959 he relocated to the USA, where he enrolled at Berklee College of Music, Boston. In the summer of 1960 he obtained a full scholarship to Lenox School of Jazz, where he studied with Gunther Schuller, George Russell and J.J.Johnson. He graduated from Boston Conservatory of Music (B.Mus) in 1963 and subsequently secured a full scholarship at Tanglewood Summer School where he studied with the likes of Aaron Copland, Iannis Xenakis, Gunther Schuller and Lukas Foss. By this stage he had already made his recording debut (1962) as arranger and composer for Gary Burton with Phil Woods, Tommy Flanagan and Joe Morello.
In 1964 Mike moved from the USA to the UK where he went on to play trombone for the likes of Tubby Hayes, Graham Collier, John Dankworth and Cleo Laine. He also worked as a studio musician for radio, television, film and music albums, as well as doing arranging work in these contexts. Between 1968 and 1974 he worked with his own bands, playing concerts, clubs and radio broadcasts in UK and Europe; he also performed his music with radio bands of Denmark, Sweden, Finland, Hamburg and with the Hannover Radio Symphony. In the early 70’s he won several Melody Maker Awards, including First Composer, Best Big Band, Musician of the Year, First Arranger and his own album In the Public Interest was voted Best Album of 1974.
By the late 1960’s Mike Gibbs was generally recognised as being one of the leading younger composer/arrangers in Jazz. He had already absorbed his main influences (Gil Evans, Charles Ives, Olivier Messiaen) and found his own sound and style. His buoyant rock rhythms and his use of assymetry anticipated the jazz-rock movement of the 1970’s and compositions as Family Joy, Oh Boy! and Tanglewood ’63 showed extraordinary melodic gifts as well as great orchestral sonority. In particular, his writing for the lower instruments was often powerfully dramatic and his work already showed considerable emotional resonance, ranging from the ominous brooding of And On The Third Day to the irrepresible high spirits of Family Joy,Oh Boy – one of the most joyous compositions in jazz or any other music. His composition Sweet Rain has been recorded many times (Stan Getz, Stephane Grappelli, Gary Burton, Randy Weston et al) and is now something of a jazz standard.
In 1974, Mike returned to the USA to take up the post of Composer-In-Residence at Berklee College of Music, but continued to do occasional tours and concerts with his own bands as well as performances with European Radio Bands and Orchestras. In the early 1980’s he also worked briefly as a producer for Elektra/Asylum records.
In 1983, Mike resigned his post at Berklee to freelance in New York for two years, then moved back to London in ’85. In 1988 he resumed recording with his own ensembles, resulting in the highly praised Big Music album for Virgin/Venture; he also returned to live performance, notably in 1991 with John Scofield for a UK national tour and in 1995 with Gary Burton and the NDR Big Band for a radio concert.
Over the years, Mike Gibbs has composed and arranged music for films, television, albums, ballet, jazz groups, symphony orchestras and is equally conversant in modern, traditional, jazz and classical styles. His recent projects include a composition for Bill Frisell and the Birmingham Contemporary Music Group (Bloods of Dust); a piece for London Brass (About Face); an album of European Folk Music (Europeana) for Joachim Kuhn with the Hannover Radio Symphony; music for Bill Forsyth’s film (Gregory’s Two Girls); arranging and conducting a concert of Ellington music in Weimar with Gary Burton and NDR Big Band and Radio Symphony Orchestra; and for the academic year 1999/2000, he took up a part-time professorship in Jazz Composition and Arranging at the Sibelius Academy Jazz Dept. in Helsinki.
In 2001, Mike recorded his debut album for Provocateur Records titled Nonsequence travelling to Hamburg and New York to complete the sessions.
‘Gibbs music is full of intriguing inner detail that does not deflect from the ultimate destiny of his pieces.’ BBC MUSIC MAGAZINE