Timeout has called him “the best bassist in the world” and his ability to move from genre to genre seamlessly illustrates why some of the most important figures in music seek him out.
Melvin Gibbs has a badass résumé. A bassist who has performed with both hardcore icon Henry Rollins and avant-jazz guitar dynamo Sonny Sharrock, the variety of collaborators he has worked with is a testament to the universal respect for his talent, which ranges from performing to producing. Together with longtime friend Vernon Reid (Living Colour), Gibbs came up in drummer Ronald Shannon Jackson’s Decoding Society, the wildest fusion band of the ’80s. Later, he anchored the Rollins Band. He’s also worked with Funkadelic’s Bernie Worrell, DNA’s Arto Lindsay, roots-jazz master Bill Frisell, electric–Miles Davis collaborator Pete Cosey and the atmospheric power trio Harriet Tubman
The influences that Gibbs brings are a deft combination of groove and depth. His own eclectic African-diaspora survey Elevated Entity includes rotating roster of luminaries. Abraham Amayo (Antibalas Afrobeat Orchestra), Blue Note recording artist James Hurt, multifaceted emcee Kokayi (one half of electro-hop duo Dastardly) and Brazilian percussionist Dende Machadohe join him at the Festival, melding hip-hop, soul and funk with deft beats that coalesce into intoxicating music with deep roots. No song is necessarily what it seems when you delve into the structure and composition – party music to be sure, but songs that are a library of influences, ideas and complexity. Groove might be in the heart, but for Gibbs it’s in the mind as well.