Music has always been a part of life for Jeff Gibbs, who grew up immersed in the soulful crooning and exalting trumpets that radiated from his family’s church in the suburbs surrounding Chicago’s bustling metropolis. When he witnessed his older sister playing in school band, he yearned to be a part of it — first trying his hand at the cello before picking up what would become his signature instrument: the saxophone.
While Gibbs knew he was a proficient player, it wasn’t until he started high school in the city that he realized he had something special. By the time he entered college, Gibbs had evolved into a serious saxophonist with an eclectic vocabulary stemming from his roots in church and traveling through various genres of interest including R&B, hip hop, and rock. As somewhat of a “musical mutt” inspired by the likes of everything from J Dilla to the Red Hot Chili Peppers, his taste resulted in a diverse style and range unique to jazz.
In 2013, Gibbs broke away from a previous project to start a band he could call his own, recruiting Cleo Bryrd on keyboards, DJ Abernathy on drums, and Jimmy Carter on bass; all musicians who shared his vision for a different sound and collectively make up the Jeff Gibbs Quartet.
That different sound can be described as unexpected, organic jazz with a hip hop edge that pushes the envelope and features simple, yet intense instrumentals that will get anyone’s engine revving. “Jazz is about evolution and freedom and the ideals our country is built upon,” Gibbs explains. “It’s this melting pot of ideas that we all bring to the table independently with our instruments, and it forms this beautiful final product. We want to make jazz cool again.”
Since forming his group, momentum has gathered steam as they’ve developed their niche sound and played shows in such renowned venues as House of Blues Chicago, Double Door, Buddy Guys Chicago, and Shrine, even opening for Grammy-winning pianist Robert Glasper.
As someone who enjoys putting his own spin on pop culture and incorporating it into jazz, Gibbs’ first official release was a cover of “Latch” by Sam Smith in December of 2014. He is currently working on writing and recording his debut EP entitled Road Less Traveled slated for release by end of 2015.
“The concept is about my upbringing with music,” Gibbs says of the project. “I didn’t do it the normal way. It’s about being open and different, expressing how I feel, accepting my path, and embracing the direction I’m supposed to go in.”