Mike Gibbs: Festival 69: I was there

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Steve Voce gave a good review and awarded four stars to the Mike Gibbs three-CD set, Festival 69 (JJ 1218).  Unfortunately the details given for the album were a bit confused. According to Cherry Red Records’ website, CDs 1 and 2 contain the Gary Burton–Mike Gibbs concert from Festival 69 whereas CD3 and not CD2 contains the February 1969 University of Lancaster concert that was broadcast on Radio Three.

The title of the package refers to the 1969 Belfast Festival which at that time was still organised and hosted by Queen’s University, Belfast. In 1969, I was a 19-year-old Queen’s student and attended the Gary Burton concert in the University’s Whitla Hall on Thursday 20th November, which I assume comprises CDs 1 and 2. Although the festival’s brochure simply described the event as The Gary Burton Quartet with The Mike Gibbs Band, my diary for that day suggests that the quartet including Steve Swallow played the first half of the concert while the second half featured the quartet with the Mike Gibbs Band, although I still have to hear the release to confirm that this division is reflected in the contents of CDs 1 and 2 respectively. My contemporary note of the instrumental composition on the night matches that provided by Steve Voce, but I am now grateful to him for providing names for each hitherto anonymous musician. And although the festival’s brochure refers to Mike Gibbs as “composer of the year”, there are no other public events listed for him in that year’s programme.

As an aside, in its introduction to Festival 69 on its website, Cherry Red Records adds the irrelevant observation that Jimi Hendrix was the 1967 headliner; this is not strictly true because the great attraction of the Belfast festivals in the 1960s and 70s was that the concept of “headliner” did not exist and concerts by the biggest names in classical music, jazz, folk and rock took place in a low-key fashion with ticket prices that a student could easily afford.

Jazz Journal readers might also be interested to know that in the course of a few days in November 1969, I attended concerts by the Buddy Rich Big Band, Memphis Slim and, courtesy of a free BBC recording session, Jake Thackeray. As another step in unravelling the past, I now wonder if someone else can help me by identifying the membership of this particular Buddy Rich Band that toured the UK in the autumn of 1969?

Ivan Ruddock, Glasgow

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