Melvin Gibbs is a composer, musician, artist, and writer, born, raised, and currently based in Brooklyn, N.Y. He has been called “the greatest bassist in the world” by Time Out New York magazine and was last year’s winner of JazzTimes Magazine’s Critics Poll in the category: Electric Bass.
His wide-ranging musical resume includes membership in bands ranging from the no-wave of Defunkt (where his work was deeply influential on the Red Hot Chili Peppers) to the avant-jazz of the Decoding Society, to Power Tools with Bill Frisell & Ronald Shannon Jackson, the alt-rock Rollins Band (where he was nominated for a Grammy), Socialybrium with Rock & Roll Hall Of Fame inductee Bernie Worrell, and the Zig Zag Power Trio with Vernon Reid and Will Calhoun of the band Living Colour. As a bassist and producer, he has worked with Femi Kuti, Caetano Veloso, dead prez, Eddie Palmieri, David Byrne, Arto Lindsay, and Sonny Sharrock.
He has composed music for films, installations, and performances for artists including Matthew Barry, Stan Douglas, and Arthur Jafa.
His own projects include Elevated Entity, which is a pioneering mix of Yoruba religious music, modern beat-making and jazz, God Particle, a collaboration with theoretical cosmologist and “The Jazz Of Physics” author Stephon Alexander which explores the connection between Albert Einstein and John Coltrane, and Melvin Gibbs Magnum, a 21st-century jazz band that includes Kassa Overall and DJ Logic.
He is currently a member of the band Harriet Tubman, who The New York Times wrote gave one of “The Best Jazz Performances of 2017” and NPR wrote gave “The Best Jazz Performance of 2018”.
On May 25 (2021), Melvin Gibbs released 4 + 1 equals 5 for May 25, an EP of incredibly affecting material reflecting on the murder of George Floyd from various points in time over the past year. Alongside the release, Gibbs shared a Cam Christiansen-directed music video for “Message From The Streets” (featuring Kokayi) and issued the following personal statement:
“I’ve been to holy sites all over the world. I’ve been to Zen temples in Kyoto, Japan. I’ve been to mahasamadhis, places where Hindu holy men are buried, and dargahs, places where Sufi masters are buried, in India. I’ve been to the Church Of The Holy Sepulchre, the place where Jesus was crucified, and the Temple Mount, the holiest site of Judaism, in Israel. I’ve been to churches in Europe where holy relics are stored. I’ve been to African religious houses in Brazil and Voodoo ceremonies in Brooklyn. The vibe I felt in June of 2020 when I was standing in George Floyd Square, at the intersection of 38th and Chicago in Minneapolis, is something I’d only felt once before. That place was the grove outside of the A-Bomb Dome in Peace Memorial Park in Hiroshima Japan. The A-Bomb Dome is a skeletal structure, a remnant, that marks Ground Zero, the place where Little Boy, the first atomic bomb, landed. So, when I say that the intersection of 38th and Chicago in Minneapolis is the American Ground Zero, I’m not using hyperbole or metaphor.”
Read Gibbs’ full statement and order 4 + 1 equals 5 for May 25, here.