New Release Section: Charlie Gabriel of Preservation Hall Jazz Band, “I’m Confessin’”

VIA PRESS RELEASE | Charlie Gabriel has signed to Sub Pop to release his debut album 89. The album, which features the highlights “I’m Confessin’” and ”The Darker It Gets,” will be available on DSPs February 25th, 2022, and released on CD/LP/CS July 1st, 2022 worldwide from Sub Pop.

Charlie is the most senior member of the legendary New Orleans Jazz ensemble, Preservation Hall Jazz Band. Charlie’s first professional gig dates to 1943, sitting in for his father in New Orleans’ Eureka Brass Band. As a teenager living in Detroit, Charlie played with Lionel Hampton, whose band just then also included a young Charles Mingus, later spending nine years with a group led by Cab Calloway drummer, J.C. Heard. While he’s also fronted a bebop quintet, played and/or toured with Ella Fitzgerald, Tony Bennet, Aretha Franklin and many more, this is the first time his name appears on the front of a record, as a bandleader.

Since 2006, he’s been a member of the Preservation Hall Jazz Band and has developed a tight musical relationship with the group’s bassist and tuba player, Ben Jaffe. The two men, along with guitarist Joshua Starkman, recorded Charlie’s new album 89 throughout 2020 and 2021.

89 includes six jazz standards and two new pieces, “The Darker It Gets” and “Yellow Moon.” Charlie describes the repertoire, which includes “Stardust,” “I’m Confessin’,” and “Three Little Words,” as “standard material that every musician if they’re an older musician like myself, will have played throughout their career. Every time I play one of these tunes the interpretation is a little bit different.” He plays tenor sax and clarinet throughout, Starkman plays guitar, and Jaffe plays bass, drums, and keyboards.

89 is now available for preorder on CD/LP/DSPs from Sub Pop. LP pre-orders from megamart.subpop.com, select independent retailers in North America, in the UK, and in Europe will receive the album on translucent gold.

About Charlie Gabriel’s 89 | “I’ve been playing since I was 11 years old,” says Charlie Gabriel, the most senior member of the legendary Preservation Hall Band, “I never did anything in my life but play music. I’ve been blessed with that gift that God gave me, and I’ve tried to nurse it the best way I knew how.”

While he’s faced plenty of challenges nursing that gift for more than 78 years, none likely rank with last winter’s passing of his brother and last living sibling, Leonard, lost to COVID-19. For the first time ever, Gabriel put down his horn, filling his days and weeks instead with dark reflection, a stubborn despondency broken now and then by regular chess matches in the studio kitchen of Hall leader Ben Jaffe, working overtime to bring his friend some light.

One such afternoon also included Joshua Starkman, sitting off in a corner playing his guitar and half-watching the chess from a distance. When Charlie returned the next day, he brought his saxophone. “I was just inspired to try it, to play again. It had been a long time, and a guitar makes me feel free. I do love the sound of a piano, but it takes up a lot of a space, keeps me kind of boxed in.”

That day was to be the first session for 89, almost entirely the work of Gabriel, Jaffe and Starkman, recorded mostly right there, in the kitchen, by Matt Aguiluz.

Charlie Gabriel’s first professional gig dates to 1943, sitting in for his father in New Orleans’ Eureka Brass Band. As a teenager living in Detroit, Charlie played with Lionel Hampton, whose band just then also included a young Charles Mingus, later spending nine years with a group led by Cab Calloway drummer, J.C. Heard. While he’s also fronted a bebop quintet, played and/or toured with Ella Fitzgerald, Tony Bennet, Aretha Franklin and many more, this is the first time his name appears on the front of a record, as a bandleader.

Since 2006, Gabriel has been a member of the Preservation Hall Jazz Band, featuring prominently on That’s It, So It Is, and Tuba to Cuba. 89 was different, and not simply due to a smaller ensemble. “We had no particular plan, or any particular insight on what we were gonna do. But we were enjoying what we were doing, jamming, having a musical conversation,” Charlie says, further musing, “Musical conversations cancel out complications.”

89 includes six standards and two newer pieces on which Gabriel is a writer: “Yellow Moon,” and “The Darker It Gets.” The record also marks Charlie’s return to his first instrument, clarinet, on many of the tracks. “The clarinet is the mother of the saxophone,” he says. “I started playing clarinet early in life, and this [taught me] the saxophone.”

Finally, 89 includes three tracks of Charlie singing…

“I always sung, but it wasn’t my forte to become a singer,” he says. “The truth is, people often develop a real relationship with a song once they hear the words. Sometimes I enjoy singing them.”
PHOTO: DANNY CLINCH

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