The final Saturday of the month is normally a day off for me, but considering that prior to last weekend I had two months off, I have decided to go ahead and post a review this weekend.

I hope you like it!

Neither Terry Gibbs nor Buddy DeFranco is new to JFASN. The have appeared here twice before as a team:

042 7/7/2012 Terry Gibbs & Buddy DeFranco Play Steve Allen 1999
144 7/18/2015 Terry Gibbs & Buddy DeFranco Terry Gibbs Dream Band Vol. 5: The Big Cat 1961

As individual performers, these two guys are the epitome of the classic jazz musicians. As a team, with the backing of a three piece rhythm section, they are magnificent!

For the sake of time, whenever I revisit an artist I’ve already written about, I refer the reader to the previous review(s) for biographical details.

Since I wrote about these two the first time, Buddy DeFranco, named a National Endowment for the Arts Jazz Master in 2006, has unfortunately passed away, on December 24, 2014.

Terry Gibbs is, I am happy to say, still with us, and October 13, 2016 will be his 92nd birthday!

The album of theirs that I want to tell you about this week was released in 1990 and is called “Airmail Special.”

Terry Gibbs & Buddy DeFranco "Airmail Special" 1990

Terry Gibbs & Buddy DeFranco “Airmail Special” 1990

For those of you too young to have been exposed to it, having a letter or parcel transported by air used to cost considerably extra than “normal” mail that was moved via surface transport. Receiving something that had been sent via airmail was a rare thrill in my house when I was growing up.

Eventually, in the United States at least, the option to send something via airmail was eliminated. Instead, the postal service began transporting items by air when it suited them and by ground transport when that was more practical, without the requirement that you pay extra postage.

Getting back to this week’s album, the personnel for “Airmail Special” are:

Terry Gibbs, vibes
Buddy DeFranco, clarinet
Frank Collett, piano
Andy Simpkins, bass
Jimmie Smith, drums

If you are a Gibbs/DeFranco fan, you may already be aware of what I am about to tell you. That is all ten tracks on this album were previously released before being included on this one.

All ten tracks were recorded live on October 4 & 5 at Carmelo’s in Sherman Oaks, California. The main draw of this particular album is the fact that it brings all ten tracks together on one disk for the first time.

Well, that and the fact that they are pretty damn special tracks at that!

“Airmail Special” kicks off with the title track, which oddly enough is give the alternative spelling of “Air Mail Special.” Regardless of how you spell it, the guys jump into “Air Mail Special” right from the first notes. DeFranco holds off for a few seconds before he too jumps into the fray and spews forth a seemingly impossible flurry of notes. The song was written by Benny Goodman, Charlie Christian and Jimmy Mundy, and in my humble opinion has never sounded better than this.

“Yesterdays” from Jerome Kern and Otto Harbach follows. This one is a little less dynamic than “Air Mail Special,” but even so you will find that it moves along at a steady clip. Once again we have DeFranco and his clarinet as the driving force, but Gibbs is never one to stay in the background for long, and about halfway in those wonderful vibes of his take the lead, followed by Simpkins on the piano, and back to DeFranco.

Next we have a song that was written by the one and only Charlie Parker. That song is “Now’s The Time.” In this instance the title is perhaps a reference to the fact that this time Gibbs takes the head instead of DeFranco.

At just under seven and a half minutes, “Now’s The Time” is the longest song on the album. It is also one of the best. DeFranco and Gibbs both open this time, and except during the expected solos, everyone is present and more than accounted for during almost the entire song.

I began writing this review comparatively early today, yet somehow here we are only three songs in and I’m almost out of time already. I don’t know if this is some sort of time warp effect caused by my Sleep Apnea, that monster that I thought I was finally beginning to get a handle on, or what. Perhaps it is. Last week I noticed it took an awful long time to write a review that I used to be able to bang out in three or four hours.

At this point I have no choice but to give you the high points, beginning with  the first of three Gibbs originals here, the delightful “Samba Wazoo”. This is a short one, barely over four minutes long, but what it lacks in time it makes up for in energy.

Other high points to keep an ear out for include Cole Porter’s “Love For Sale” and both remaining Gibbs contributions, “The Austin Mood” and “Blues For Brody.”

“Airmail Special” from Terry Gibbs and Buddy DeFranco is one of those rare albums with no filler. Every song included is “A-List” material all the way! Which is why I feel highly confident that you will find this album to be a cherished addition to your personal playlist, for a Saturday or any other night!

Thanks for reading this.

Al Evans
Wood Village, Oregon


Your comments about this article and/or the subject are welcome! Please use the “Leave a Reply” box below.

Thank you!

My original content, including photos other than album covers, Copyright © 2016 by Al Evans. All rights reserved.

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