Later this month, Cherry Red’s Turtle Records is turning back the clock almost 50 years for the first official release of two 1969 concerts from longtime friends and collaborators Michael Gibbs and Gary Burton. Festival ’69, due September 28, is a 3-CD set of performances from Gibbs at Lancaster University (February 1969) and Burton with Gibbs at Whitla Hall in Belfast (November 20, 1969) primarily featuring Gibbs’ own compositions.
Students of Herb Pomeroy, trombonist Gibbs and vibraphonist Burton met while attending the prestigious Berklee College of Music. Burton’s early fusion records on RCA such as Lofty Fake Anagram and Duster (both 1967) featured Gibbs’ compositions and a heady blend of jazz and rock that translated to the stage as heard on Festival ’69. The first two discs present the Belfast concert which was split between straight Quartet performances (by Burton, guitarist Dave Pritchard, bassist Steve Swallow, and drummer Bill Goodwin), and songs with an all-star British big band consisting of Gibbs and Chris Pyne on trombone, Kenny Wheeler and Trevor Barber on trumpet, Alan Skidmore, Ray Warleigh, and Tony Roberts on saxophone, and Chris Spedding on guitar. Almost all of the material performed was written by Gibbs, Swallow, or Burton, and many of the songs were familiar from Burton’s recordings on Duster, Tennessee Firebird (1967), Throb (1969, Atlantic), and Country Roads and Other Places (RCA, 1969). One lone cover, a vibes solo by Burton of Antonio Carlos Jobim’s “Chega de Saudade,” had first been surveyed by Burton on his 1966 LP The Time Machine.
The third disc of the collection features Gibbs’ Lancaster University big band performance sans Burton, but with a very special guest in the form of Cream’s Jack Bruce on bass. Gibbs and Bruce had previously played alongside each other in the New Jazz Orchestra, but Bruce brought all of the rock energy he’d invested in Cream to this performance, dynamically soloing on the closing “Some Echoes, Some Shadows.” For this 55-minute set, Gibbs and Bruce were joined by a strong line-up of British jazz’s best players including John Marshall on drums and John Surman on both baritone and soprano saxophones. All seven songs played were penned by Gibbs, who went on to record many of them on his own albums for the U.K. Deram label.
The three CDs are housed in individual sleeves within a slipcase, and a 24-page book features copious liner notes by Colin Harper. Simon Murphy has remastered from best available non-compressed files which have been restored for the first time, under Mike Gibbs’ supervision, to the correct speed and original pitch (improving upon previous unofficial digital issues). Note that sound is generally good on the Lancaster show and less so, though still listenable, on the Belfast discs.
This release is historically significant both for documenting an early onstage collaboration of Gibbs and Burton (who would go on to release the joint album In the Public Interest for Polydor in 1974) and for capturing Jack Bruce’s appearance at a Gibbs set. This historical value should outweigh the sonic deficiencies for most. Festival ’69 is due from Cherry Red’s Turtle Records imprint on September 28. It can be pre-ordered at the links below!
CD 1: Live at Whitla Hall, Belfast, November 20, 1969
- General Mojo’s Well Laid Plan
- Arise, Her Eyes
- And On the Third Day
- Chega de Saudade (Vibes Solo)
- Portsmouth Configurations (Portsmouth Figurations)
CD 2: Live at Whitla Hall, Belfast, November 20, 1969
- Tanglewood ’63
- Sojourn/June the 15th, 1967
- Walter L
- Doin’ the Pig
CD 3: Lancaster University, 2/69
- Sweet Rain
- Family Joy, Oh Boy!
- Fly Time Fly (Sigh)
- Feelings and Things/June the 15th, 1967
- And on the Third Day
- Some Echoes, Some Shadows