As one of the greatest vibraphone artists of all time, Yamaha artist Terry Gibbs exhibits his love for music through the dedication of his life to the art. With a career spanning seven decades, Gibbs, 83, is one of the few vibraphonists today who can combine remarkable speed, passion, dexterity and pure musicality.
Growing up in Brooklyn, New York, Gibbs was brought up in a family of musicians. His father, Abe, was an accomplished violinist and bandleader whose band, the Radio Novelty Orchestra, was a regular fixture at local weddings and bar mitzvahs. His brother, Sol Gubenko (also an accomplished drummer), helped introduce Gibbs to drums and xylophone. Considered a child prodigy, Gibbs' formal lessons with Freddy Albright - one of the most respected percussion teachers at the time - lasted for one year. "When I was eight, my teacher would give me twelve lessons at a time because I memorized everything so quickly," remembers Gibbs. "There was a time I learned the Flight of the Bumblebee and played it from memory after one lesson."
At age 12, Gibbs' inspired vibe playing won him first place on the Major Bowes Amateur Hour, a popular radio program of the day. His professional career took off shortly after that appearance. He later turned down a full scholarship to the Julliard School as a timpanist, so that he could concentrate on the vibes and continue following his dream of playing jazz, especially bebop. Gibbs joined the US Army at 18 and was trained as a tank driver. Instead of deployment into battle during World War II, the Army had other plans in mind. He was sent to Dallas to play with the 8th Service Command, where the Army produced movies and radio programs for bond drives. They needed a percussionist and Gibbs fulfilled his commitment to the Army as a musician, playing percussion and writing arrangements.
Following his stint in the army, Gibbs toured with renowned musicians Chubby Jackson, Buddy Rich and Woody Herman. He co-led a sextet with Louie Bellson and Charlie Shavers; and in 1950, he formed his own band for The Mel Tormé Show. In 1951, he joined the Benny Goodman Sextet. Subsequently, he toured with his own band where he won acclaim as "# 1 Vibraphonist in the world," in both the Downbeat and Metronome polls from 1950 to 1955. Settling in Los Angeles in 1957, he formed the big band known as "The Dream Band." Comprised of Mel Lewis, Joe Maini, Frank Rosolino, Conte Candoli and Richard Kamuca, they were named "Best Band in the World" in the Downbeat '62 Critic's Poll.
Gibbs returned to New York in the early sixties only to move back to LA to take a position as Music Director for The Regis Philbin Show. "I was the only music director that Regis Philbin ever had," recalls Gibbs. "After me they no longer had live music." Gibbs also served as the Music Director for Steve Allen's TV shows for twenty years.
Throughout his illustrious career, Gibbs has enjoyed international acclaim playing with famed musicians such as clarinetist Buddy DeFranco, Charlie Parker, Dizzy Gillespie, Horace Silver, Max Roach, Art Blakely, Elvin Jones and Tito Puente. Co-leading a quintet, he was nominated in four categories of the Playboy Jazz Poll: Best Vibraphonist, Best Quartet, Best Big Band and Best Band Leader. His association with DeFranco has spanned 18 years and remains an invigorating collaboration today.
Gibbs' autobiogrophy "Good Vibes" received the Deems Taylor ASCAP Award and the Recording Industry Award. Gibbs is also the recepient of the ASCAP Wall Of Fame Award, the UCLA Duke Ellington Hall of Fame Award and the Percussive Arts Society Hall of Fame Award. In 2005 Yamaha collaborated with the Percussive Arts Society and created the PAS/Yamaha Terry Gibbs Vibraphone Scholarship. Funded by Yamaha, the $1,000 scholarship is awarded annually to a full-time student registered in an accredited college or university school of music for the following academic year. The student must also be a member of PAS.
Gibbs likens his role as a mentor and teacher to that of a physician. "I'm like a doctor," says Gibbs. "I always offer clinics and every once in a while I take a student." He is fervent in his advice to young musicians who are considering learning a new instrument. "The most important part of music is learning your instrument technically; learn mechanics, harmony and theory. You also better learn how to read well."
His sizzling technique is well-admired by percussionists everywhere. "A great musician has to know his instrument," Gibbs advises. "If you're left handed, make sure your right hand is as strong as your left and vice versa." he adds.
Gibbs is proud of his long association with Yamaha; he plays a Yamaha YV-3710 vibraphone. Despite Gibbs' hectic international performance schedule, Yamaha consistently provides him with a great vibraphone anytime, anyplace. The strength and superior sound of the instrument also strengthened the relationship. "I'm a fiery player and Yamaha makes a great instrument for my kind of playing." He says. "The company supplied me with an instrument everywhere I went. I wanted to play on something I enjoyed and Yamaha has always been there to provide me with that."
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