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Jazz Reviews : Gibbs and DeFranco Stop to Bop at Loa

December 15, 1987|LEONARD FEATHER

Be-bop, once the music of revolution but now the lingua franca of jazzmen by the thousands, reared its indomitable head when vibraphonist Terry Gibbs and clarinetist Buddy DeFranco played Friday through Sunday at the Loa in Santa Monica.

These men, both multiple award winners since the 1940s, have worked together off and on since 1980; yet despite all their credits, they still have to use rhythm sections picked up locally. As a result, they are limited to tunes commonly known, along with a few original pieces based on easily learned chords.

DeFranco, today as always, limns incredible, pearl-like strands of clarity in every up-tempo solo. On such ballads as "If You Could See Me Now" and the blues-like "Please Send Me Someone to Love," he achieves an emotional quality that belies the now rarely heard complaints about his alleged lack of warmth.

Gibbs is to the bop generation what Lionel Hampton is to swing music: one of the eternal verities. His natural groove still seems to be a race-horse pace, yet he too has a more relaxed side, as he made clear in "Getting Sentimental Over You."

Pianist Alan Broadbent, more of a romanticist than a natural bopper, adjusted well to the context. Gibbs' 23-year-old son Gerry and the redoubtable Andy Simpkins on bass kept the rhythm unit ablaze.

The quintet wound up with "Cherokee," played in five different keys. The bridge of this tune, in any key, is so demanding that negotiating it is comparable to stepping across a very wide pond on very small pebbles; but to these men it was no problem.

It seems a shame that artists like Gibbs and DeFranco cannot keep a group together in order to work out some fresh, challenging material. Instead, they have to face a future that offers 1,000 more workouts on "Autumn Leaves" and the like. Still, what they do with what they have is so admirable that to complain would be like telling the waiter that the caviar has been served in the wrong dish.

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