03 October 2007
Mike Gibbs started his latest UK tour with a concert at the Royal Northern College of Music in Manchester tonight. It was a happy event, with a near full house, and he struck up a good rapport with the audience. His selection of material was a mixture of old favourites and new-ish compositions - though I could have done with more standards. The band was heavy on brass and light on reeds - and the only weak point in a good ensemble was a drummer who looked and played like a night-club bouncer. Highlights amongst his players were Gerard Presencer (trumpet, flugelhorn) and Bill Frissell (guitar) who although a bit folksy had the band and audience spellbound on a solo sequence in one of the slower numbers. Although Gibbs admitted to a penchant for cliche in his titles, his beautiful compositions deserve better. He really is at his best on slow, multi-layered pieces which are based on very simple chord sequences and achieve their dramatic effect via shifts of key and subtle modulations of orchestral colour - which is presumably why he has been successful in composing film music. And I noticed that no matter what the mood of the individual selections, the spirit of his native South Africa was audible throughout. It was an event I'm glad I took the trouble to attend, and my only criticism was that apart from a quite glamorous bass trombone player (Sarah Williams) who took the trouble to wear a sparkly top above her jeans, most of the musicians looked as if they had selected their clothes from their local charity shop.