Berklee to Present Honorary Doctorates to Michael Gibbs and Bill Frisell in Concert with Gary Burton
As one of Berklee's most sought-after professors of the 1970s, Michael Gibbs '63 directed the Only Chrome-Waterfall Orchestra, a groundbreaking jazz-rock ensemble that has influenced generations of young artists and composers. To celebrate his 80th birthday, the trailblazing composer, arranger, and bandleader is returning to Boston on October 19 to lead the ensemble in a revival of his fabled concerts of the ‘70s as part of the Signature Series at Berklee.
The career-spanning concert will reunite Gibbs with his longtime friend and former Berklee classmate, Grammy-winning jazz vibraphonist Gary Burton '62 '89H, as well as his former Berklee students, Grammy-winning guitarist Bill Frisell '77 and acclaimed saxophonist Jim Odgren B.M. '76. Burton, Frisell, and Odgren will be backed by the Berklee Concert Jazz Orchestra, directed by Greg Hopkins, professor of jazz composition.
Berklee President Roger H. Brown will present honorary doctorates to Gibbs and Frisell during the concert. The event, Michael Gibbs Directs the Only Chrome-Waterfall Orchestra, takes place on Thursday, October 19, at 8:00 p.m. at the Berklee Performance Center (BPC), located at 136 Massachusetts Avenue in Boston.
The ground level of the venue is wheelchair accessible. The Signature Series at Berklee brings world-renowned musicians to the Berklee Performance Center to perform with Berklee students, faculty, and alumni.
About the Artists
Born in Zimbabwe, Michael Gibbs grew up playing trombone and piano. He enrolled at Berklee in 1959 and graduated from the Boston Conservatory in 1963 (decades before the schools merged, Berklee and the Boston Conservatory had an arrangement that allowed students to finish with a degree from the conservatory and a diploma from Berklee). During his time in Boston, he spent summers in Lenox, Massachusetts, studying with Gunther Schuller, George Russell, Aaron Copland, and other renowned composers.
In 1964, Gibbs moved to London, quickly making a name for himself on the U.K. jazz scene. By the late '60s, he was generally known as one of the best young composers in his field, pioneering a unique style of orchestral music that incorporated jazz and rock elements. An early career highlight came in 1974, when John McLaughlin ‘17H asked Gibbs to orchestrate the Mahavishnu Orchestra’s landmark Apocalypse album. This led to opportunities to write orchestrations and charts for Peter Gabriel, Joni Mitchell, Pat Metheny ‘96H, Whitney Houston, Elton John, and other artists. He also recorded a host of critically acclaimed albums under his own name and with Germany's NDR Bigband.
In 1974, Gibbs returned to Berklee to launch the college's artist-in-residence program. Though he only intended to stay for a year, Gibbs remained on the faculty until 1983. During this time, he had a profound influence on countless young composers. "He had a way of finding a musician's limits, then writing just a little bit past those limits," reflects Odgren, an original member of the Only Chrome-Waterfall Orchestra. In the decades following his teaching career at Berklee, Gibbs has written extensively for films and television and has continued to write music for a diverse range of artists.
In a career spanning more than 35 years and more than 200 recordings, including dozens of his own albums, Grammy-winning guitarist and composer and Berklee alumnus Bill Frisell is now firmly established as a visionary presence in American music. His catalog has been cited by DownBeat as "the best recorded output of the decade," and the New York Times wrote, "It's hard to find a more fruitful meditation on American music than in the compositions of guitarist Bill Frisell. Mixing rock and country with jazz and blues, he's found what connects them: improvisation and a sense of play." Frisell has worked with John Zorn, Elvis Costello, Ginger Baker, John Scofield ’73 ‘97H, the late Paul Motian, and countless others. Earlier in 2017, he released Small Town (ECM), a collaboration with Thomas Morgan which All About Jazz lauds as “intimate, beautiful and deep, while at the same time knotty, witty and curiously skewed.”
To call vibraphonist Gary Burton a superstar is wildly underplaying the impact this Berklee stalwart has had on the world of music. His long career as a performer, teacher, improviser, recording artist, and mentor to generations of musicians has been entwined with Berklee since he first came to Boston to attend the college in the early 1960s. Burton has had a vibrant and busy life playing with Chick Corea '97H, Chet Atkins, Stan Getz, Quincy Jones '51 '83H, Arif Mardin B.M '61 '85H, Pat Metheny '96H, and many more. Along the way, he has been nominated for more than 20 Grammy Awards, winning seven. His four-mallet technique has exploded the music world, demonstrating the vibraphone’s capacity to offer a range and depth no less versatile than that of the piano.
A professor in Berklee's Woodwind Department, Jim Odgren B.M. ‘76 is an alto saxophonist who doubles on tenor and soprano saxophones and flute. In addition to releasing two albums as a bandleader (Day Dreaming and Her Eyes), he has recorded two LPs (Easy As Pie and Picture This) and toured the world with the Gary Burton Quartet from 1980 to 1983. Since then, he has worked with many acclaimed musicians, including Berklee alumni such as Vinnie Colaiuta ’75, Kevin Eubanks '79 '05H, Scofield, George Garzone B.M. '72, and Antonio Sanchez ’97.
Watch Michael Gibbs direct the Only Chrome-Waterfall Orchestra in a performance of "Benny's Bugle" featuring Bill Frisell and Jim Odgren: