“And On the Third Day” by Michael Gibbs

[Second post about the forthcoming Ethan Iverson Residency in London]

Many jazz musicians roughly in my generation and a bit older used the Real Book when we were too young to know better.

The book was created by two students who were in the Berklee jazz program in Boston. Gary Burton was head of that department and the Real Book had a lot of lead sheets by musicians supported by Burton: Carla Bley, Steve Swallow, Pat Metheny, Eberhard Weber, Bob Moses, and so forth, most of whom could be found on ECM records. The most mysterious name might have been trombonist and composer Michael Gibbs. Burton recorded several Gibbs pieces and (I think) suggested “Sweet Rain” to Stan Getz.

Early on in the Real Book was a chart to “And On the Third Day.”

gibbs real book


I read through this chart as a kid and it made no impression. However various people have kept mentioning Gibbs’s name to me over the years, so he’s stayed in the “to be investigated further” pile of my subconscious.

When I began assembling a playlist of British composers for my London residency I finally started checking Gibbs out. The 1970 debut album Michael Gibbs on Deram proved to be a thrilling listen, especially the last track, “And On the Third Day.”

“Day” is the precise intersection of British Invasion rock (Jack Bruce is on bass!) and the Ellington/Mingus big band tradition. Amusingly, the overall vibe strongly reminds me of the brilliant compositions of Reid Anderson (although I can guarantee that Reid never checked out Gibbs).

At one point I thought the Real Book charts of the Burton circle were much better than those of the jazz masters. To my surprise, the Real Book chart of “And On the Third Day” is just as bad as selections by Monk or Miles. I had to completely re-transcribe it:

And On the Third Day iverson

The take has hot trombone from Chris Pyne, incandescent baritone from John Surman, and a delightfully period beat from John Marshall. (Surman will also be represented in my quintet playlist at Kings Place.) Truly, I think this shambling anthem is one of the greatest things ever recorded.