Melvin Gibbs in The Wire 418. Photo bt Becky McNeel
Melvin Gibbs is a musician whose respect of the art and craft of music is equaled by the lack of respect he shows for externally drawn boundaries between musical forms. Born, raised and currently a resident of Brooklyn, NY, he has been called "the greatest bassist in the world" by Time Out New York magazine and was cited for particular mention by New York Times in their "Best Jazz Performances of 2017”.
He first came to notice as a member of Defunkt, a pioneering band that rose out of the early 1980s no wave scene. He and longtime friend Vernon Reid, leader of the band Living Colour, were members of Ronald Shannon Jackson's seminal free-funk group The Decoding Society. The band Gibbs co-led, Eye And I, was the inspiration for the Black Rock Coalition. Along with Ronald Shannon Jackson and Bill Frisell, he formed the group Power Tools. And as a member of The Rollins Band he was nominated for a Grammy. The list of artists he's played with includes Femi Kuti, Caetano Veloso, dead prez, Eddie Palmieri, David Byrne and Arto Lindsay.
Since 1998, along with drummer JT Lewis and guitarist Brandon Ross, Gibbs has been a member of the band Harriet Tubman, whose collaborators have been as diverse as DJ Logic, Kyp Malone of TV On The Radio, Meshell Ndegocello, Cassandra Wilson, who collaborated with Tubman in the project Black Sun, and Wadada Leo Smith, who collaborated with them on the album Araminta. Their current album is The Terror End Of Beauty.
Gibb, Vernon Reid and Living Colour drummer Will Calhoun are also Zig Zag Power Trio, who recently released their first album.
The track “Pete’s Mojo Pot” is from Gibbs’s work-in-progress album Melvin Runs The Hoodoo Down, which is built around a seemingly simple idea given to him by the visual artist Arthur Jafa: have a group of musicians play on top of Miles Davis’s classic album Bitches Brew, and construct an album from the results. The end result contains what may well be the last recorded work of Pete Cosey, the guitarist who worked with Miles in the 1970s, appearing on Get Up With It, Agartha and Pangaea.