Swing-to-boppers Gibbs (vibes) and DeFranco (clarinet) love playing unison melodies, and the sonorities of those two instruments coming together provides the springboard for this swinging music. It's all based on the witty compositions of Steve Allen, songs the general public have rarely heard. The combination fits all of the participants to a T.
This is mainstream jazz at its current best, but unless you're a hard core fan (or Steve Allen himself, ) you'd be hard pressed to say you know this material intimately. There are some familiar sounds, "Until I Left Chicago (I Never Had The Blues)" is similar to Louis Jordan's "Is You Is Or Is You Ain't My Baby," while "Alabama Baby" strikes a pose akin to "Comin' Home Baby." Up numbers "I Used To Think That I Was Crazy," "Mr. Moon," "Playing The Field" and "In The Morning When The Sun Comes Up" are nods to Benny Goodman and Charlie Parker for their classic head melodies. Ballads and blues are sprinkled in, the ethereal "Night In Madrid" is quite different from the rest of the program, and one wonders how Allen got the inspiration for the hard boppin' "Seven Come Eleven" variation "South Dakota."
All in all this is a delightful CD, a great idea laced with extraordinary playing from these masters. Gibbs and DeFranco have never beeen in better form, and having worked together for many years shows. No slight to Tom Ranier, who is an excellent jazz player when called upon, check out his extended piuonao intro on "One Little Thing." It just seems that using old Steverino at the 88's would have put the perfect cherry on top of this rich chocolate sundae, displaying his marvelous playing as well as his writing, of which this CD only scratches the surface.