Slideshow: Bill Frisell, Gary Burton Join in on Salute to Composer Michael Gibbs

By 
Mike Keefe-Feldman and Salim ALi
November 7, 2017
Michael Gibbs '63
From left to right: Lee Berk, Gary Burton, Roger H. Brown, Bill Frisell, Michael Gibbs, and Susan Berk
Provost Larry Simpson reads a proclamation from Boston Mayor Marty Walsh
Bill Frisell '77
Gary Burton solos "Sweet Rain"
From left to right: Larry Simpson, Michael Gibbs, Bill Frisell, and Roger H. Brown
Katie Esler sings "Happy Birthday" to Michael Gibbs
Students perform as the Berklee Concert Jazz Orchestra
Professor Jim Odgren and Professor Greg Hopkins with the Berklee Concert Jazz Orchestra
Ti (Sirabhorn) Muntarbhorn Receiving thanks for her role: she’s responsible for calling this event together
The Signature Series at Berklee presented the music of influential composer and former Berklee faculty member Michael Gibbs ‘63 on October 19, with special guests Bill Frisell ’77 and Gary Burton ’62 ‘89H.
In the Green Room prior to the concert, from left to right: Lee Berk, former Berklee president; Burton; Roger H. Brown, current Berklee president; Frisell; Gibbs; and Susan Berk.
Boston Mayor Marty J. Walsh declared October 19, 2017 Michael Gibbs Day in the city of Boston, noting that “the jazz tradition has benefitted from Michael Gibbs’s creativity, excellence, and dedication to music.”
Frisell, one of the world’s leading guitarists, performed with students for the concert, and noted that Gibbs “became a hero” to him during his early days in music. Frisell described Gibbs’ impact on him as “enormous.”
Burton, the multi-Grammy-winning vibraphonist, composer, and educator, introduces “Sweet Rain,” a Gibbs composition Burton stated he has performed many times, but, prior to this concert, never before as a solo piece for vibraphone. The song became the title track for the 1967 Stan Getz album, and Burton dedicated it to Gibbs, who he noted was "my old school friend—we were in class together back in the day."
Both Gibbs and Frisell received honorary Doctor of Music degrees from Berklee on the occasion, presented by Brown and Berklee Provost and Senior Vice President for Academic Affairs Larry Simpson. Berk noted, "To this day, Mike brings a freshness and commitment to every project he undertakes."
Over a reharmonized instrumental backdrop, student Katie Esler sings “Happy Birthday” to Gibbs, who recently turned 80.
Student Noam Tanzer plays bass for the Signature Series concert, flanked by other student members of the Berklee Concert Jazz Orchestra.
Berklee Professor Greg Hopkins (far right) directs the orchestra, which is joined on some numbers throughout the evening by Professor Jim Odgren (far left) on saxophone. Here, the group prepares to dive into the Gibbs tune "With All Due Respect."
Sirabhorn "Ti" Muntarbhorn, a member of Berklee’s class of 1980, receives recognition from the audience for conceiving of the concert. Muntarbhorn, a longtime student of—and friend to—Gibbs, noted that Gibbs became like her surrogate family when she came from Thailand to study at Berklee.
Image by Kelly Davidson
Image by Kelly Davidson
Image by Kelly Davidson
Image by Kelly Davidson
Image by Kelly Davidson
Image by Kelly Davidson
Image by Kelly Davidson
Image by Kelly Davidson
Image by Kelly Davidson

On October 19, virtuosic Grammy-winning musicians Gary Burton '62 '89H and Bill Frisell '77 joined forces with Berklee students and faculty for a musical salute to influential composer Michael Gibbs '63 as part of the Signature Series at Berklee. Gibbs, who studied at Berklee College of Music and Boston Conservatory (now a merged institution) before becoming one of Berklee's most revered faculty members in the 1970s, is perhaps best known for his compositional contributions to enduring jazz fusion albums such as Burton's In the Public Interest and Seven Songs for Quartet and Chamber Orchestra. He has also composed several film scores, including the score to the Robin Williams's film Being Human, and his composition "Sweet Rain" became the title track to Stan Getz's classic 1967 release.

For jazz aficionados, the evening provided a rare opportunity to witness Grammy-winning stars such as Burton and Frisell perform together on stage with the Berklee Concert Jazz Orchestra, which rose to the occasion under the direction of Professor Greg Hopkins. It may be the last such opportunity in the case of Burton, who recently announced his retirement, before coming out of retirement to make a special appearance at the Gibbs tribute concert.

Both Gibbs and Frisell received honorary Doctor of Music degrees from Berklee and sat in on several numbers during the concert, which showcased a handful of Gibbs compositions, as well as Frisell's "Throughout." (Gibbs and Frisell recently collaborated on the 2015 Cuneiform Records release Play a Bill Frisell Set List, which featured the guitarist taking on Gibbs's arrangements alongside the NDR Bigband.) The audience included Susan and Lee Berk, former president of Berklee College of Music; the couple first met in 1975 at a performance by Gibbs's Only Chrome-Waterfall Orchestra. Lee Berk described the music that night as "so compositionally rich" that "it stimulated a mutual interest between Susan and I which has clearly endured 42 years later."

During the Signature Series concert, Berklee Provost Larry Simpson read a statement from Boston Mayor Marty Walsh declaring October 19, 2017 Michael Gibbs Day in Boston. The proclamation noted that Gibbs has "inspired countless emerging musicians in Boston while he served as a member of Berklee College of Music’s faculty." Among those in attendance whom Gibbs inspired was Sirabhorn "Ti" Muntarbhorn '80, who conceived of the event to honor Gibbs's work for the occasion of his 80th birthday.