Sean Gibbs ‘When Can I See You Again?’ LP/CD (Ubuntu Music) 5/5

Sean Gibbs, trumpeter, composer and arranger, hails from Scotland and after cutting his teeth with the Tommy Smith Youth Jazz Orchestra and the National Youth Jazz Orchestra of Scotland, Gibbs ventured South to take up a place on the jazz course at the (now Royal) Birmingham Conservatoire. Whilst there he formed the Birmingham Jazz Orchestra and released his debut album with the orchestra in 2015. During his time in the City, he studied with fellow trumpeters Percy Pursglove and Richard Iles. He left Birmingham with a first-class honours degree in 2015. Now resident in London, his star is in the ascendant. Recordings under his own name include those for small groups and orchestra.

Sean is also a prolific composer and arranger with many works for big band under his belt. Here however he has chosen to feature his quintet comprising Riley Stone-Lonergan (tenor saxophone), Rob Brockway (piano), Calum Gourlay (bass) and Jay Davis (drums) and this is their debut album. A mighty fine offering it is too!

The repertoire consists of seven original compositions from Sean and as he says, the emphasis is on “lyrical melodies, hearty grooves and a deep connection to the blues.” The album opens with ‘Internal Conflict’. Here the rhythm section sets up the theme with a certain sense of urgency before the front-line enter with the theme statement this is followed with a declamatory solo from the leader and a serpentine outing from the saxophonist, the whole piece seeming to allude to the performer’s own internal conflict.

‘Happy Hour’ follows with the rhythm team again setting the tune up. The tempo here is more relaxed, with the melody statement holding the attention. This performance reminds me of some of the music of fellow Scottish trumpeter Colin Steele, sharing a similar joyfulness. Up next is ‘Mary’ a sumptuous ballad performance. The dedicatee is one special and lucky lady. After the delicate melody statement from Gibbs, we are treated to a wonderfully thoughtful bass solo which is perfectly in keeping with the overall feel of the composition. Gibbs playing calls to mind many of the trumpet greats of the past, particularly for me, Booker Little and Clifford Brown. ‘The Grand Parade’ recalls the best of the classic Blue Note albums. This is a swinging, melodic piece where each group member plays their part to perfection including a crisp drum feature towards the end of the piece. The mood changes again for ‘That’s Your Lot’ which has a mid-tempo melody and is sure to become a most welcome earworm. ‘Camperdown’ is an inspired mid-tempo blues-inflected tune. Was this inspired by the Country Park of Gibb’s homeland? If so, it is a place well worth a visit.

The set ends with the title track and another change of pace and it’s another melody that will remain with the listener long after hearing it, simply because it’s exquisite. Gibbs is playful on this one and the saxophonist is earnest. All-in-all, this is a triumph for Sean Gibbs and his men and is sure to be another successful addition to the Ubuntu Music roster. After hearing this you too will be asking ‘When Can I See You Again’? Hopefully, this will be soon; there was an album launch in London in August. In the meantime, get your fix of the Sean Gibbs quintet by listening to this accomplished album again and again……and again.

Alan Musson