As indicated by the title of his Imani Records leader debut, veteran trombonist David Gibson developed the repertoire on Fellowship while endeavoring “to create a sense of purpose” amidst the isolation of Covid-19. Deeply admired by his peers for the high-level arranging skills that highlight his seven previous albums by two- and three-horn ensembles since 2002, three albums by Orrin Evans’s Captain Black Big Band, and his work as musical director for George Gee’s Swing Orchestra, Gibson’s debut quartet album places his considerable instrumental prowess front and center, as he navigates eight originals marked by his characteristic blend of complex harmonic structures and elemental melodies with a burnished, centered tone and a flow of fresh ideas. Joining Gibson is the challenging, kinetic rhythm section he’s frequently performed with at Smalls and various other New York venues, comprising energetic rising star pianist Davis Whitfield and drum master Kush Abadey, both thirty-ish, and bassist Joseph Lepore.

“Even prior to Covid, I was trying to restrict myself to playing with quartet because I knew it would challenge me to carry the load,” says Gibson, an Oklahoma native who spent quality time with legendary trombonist-arranger Slide Hampton after arriving in New York in the mid-1990s from Eastman Conservatory of Music. “I wanted to see if I could approach the intensity and energy of the John Coltrane Quartet. We were starting to work things out when Covid hit. The quartet format opens it up for everyone to be more interpretive and gives me license to respond to something in the moment. Like everyone, I was feeling rudderless, so I decided to play regular gigs at my apartment as an opportunity to press pause on that feeling and do something helpful. Then I decided to make it a project. My goal was to bring together my musical family — spend some time, work, have fun, and be a community.”

Such communitarian imperatives have placed Gibson on the same wavelength as Imani owner and executive producer Orrin Evans since Evans sublet a room in Gibson’s apartment for a New York pied a terre during the ’00s. “We had a lot of Saturday and Sunday morning cups of coffee together, and the sort of conversations you have at home versus on the bandstand or at a bar,” Gibson says, describing the roots of their long-standing simpatico. “I trust Orrin. He encourages risks, and he’s honest if something doesn’t work. He’s always in the moment, which is the ultimate goal.”

The still-ongoing musical component of their relationship launched one evening circa 2011, when Evans asked Gibson to sub in the Captain Black Big Band trombone section, which he’s led ever since. “I’m a fan of David’s trombone playing, his arranging, and his humanity off the bandstand,” Evans says. “I think his band is amazing, and I knew it would be tight. He has a consistent New York audience that loves him. Now it’s time to bring him to the rest of the world.”


releases January 15, 2024

David Gibson – trombone
Davis Whitfield – piano
Joseph Lepore – bass
Kush Abadey – drums

All songs by John David Gibson (BMI)
Recorded live May 16, 2022 at Samurai Hotel Recording Studio, Astoria, NY by David Stoller
Mastering by David Darlington
Produced by Orrin Evans for Imani Records