Image by: supplied
Concert Reviews

Concert Review: Frank Gibson Jr's New Bop Quintet

John Fenton

The Creative Jazz Club hosted the New Bop Quintet at Anthology, Karangahape Road on Wednesday, September 30.  Frank Gibson Jr is a legendary figure on the New Zealand Jazz scene. A drummer like his father before him and a jazz touchstone throughout much of my life. He and I attended the same grammar school and although he and Murray McNab were two years ahead of me, they were known even then as being cool Jazz guys. Gibson’s love of Thelonious Monk and of the Hard Bop era has always been his thing, and it is evidenced in his gigs. No one about town does it better. 

With the New Bop Quintet, we get a fresh Gibson line up this time; within minutes of hitting the stage, they’d recaptured the joy of that era. The setlist was broad and included a few tunes that we seldom hear; it also included a nicely penned original by bass player Cameron McArthur titled "Three Up, Three Down". There was only one Monk tune ("Straight no Chaser"), and the applause after that was thunderous. Everyone loves Monk. 

As an opener, the band gave a crackling rendition of a favourite Wayne Shorter tune "Speak No Evil" and there is no better way to commence a standards gig. Gibson is a strong drummer and his style exemplifies this era; his bop-influenced grooves being unmistakable. In this unit, he has changed things up by including some different musicians. This gave the gig an interesting edge and it worked a treat.  Kevin Field pianist could fit into any line-up, but he is seldom in a Hard Bop unit. His distinctive harmonic approach edged the sets into new territory, and everyone stepped up to meet the challenge. 

Cameron McArthur and Frank Gibson Jr (image by John Fenton)

You could not have a Hard Bop gig without featuring Benny Golson tunes; there were two of them, "Along Came Betty" and "Stablemates". These are essential Hard Bop classics, and no one ever tires of them. The tune which really stood out though was a seldom played composition by Dexter Gordon, "Soy Califa". This was the opening track on his A Swingin’ Affair album and once heard, loved forever. To do justice to a tune like this requires chops and bravery and the evidence of both was very much on display last Wednesday.  

On "Soy Califa", the opening drum beats and the tightly executed head arrangement hooked us, then Pete France took it to a different level entirely. He and Mike Booth gave memorable solos. It is a common complaint that we see too little of France (a Scottish born saxophonist). He is highly regarded about town and when his tenor-saxophone sings, it is wonderful to behold.  

There were also flawless performances from Mike Booth, as this is the style and era where we hear the best of him. He and France were very well matched and as the band played on, you could feel their enjoyment and their deep love for this music. Field and McArthur while hidden in darkness, were the essential ingredients that rounded off a heady brew.

Whether it’s playing with locals or with Jazz greats, travelling or teaching, Gibson has achieved much in his life; to top that off he has recently gained a doctorate.  This was the first CJC gig as we emerged from the second lockdown and it attracted a capacity audience. It was great to have the music back and nice to have it ushered in by a quality Hard Bop unit like this. 

Pete France and Mike Booth (image by John Fenton)

New Bop Quintet

Frank Gibson (drums), Mike Booth (trumpet), Pete France (tenor saxophone), Kevin Field (piano), Cameron McArthur (upright bass). 

Radio 13 appreciates our partnership with John Fenton. Check out his other writings and reviews at jazzlocal32.com

More on CJC HERE 

download4


Written By: John Fenton John Fenton was educated by books and bohemians; the equivalent of being raised by wolves. His interests: jazz, poetry, philosophy, literature & the visual arts. He is a jazz journalist, music blogger, Gonzo journalist, guerrilla commentator & social activist. He lives in Auckland, is married, and wrangles several cats. His long running blog is https://jazzlocal32.com/