On ’89’ Saxophonist Charlie Gabriel Finally Fronts His Own Project (ALBUM REVIEW)

It has taken 89 years for the man who has played with the likes of Aretha Franklin, Charles Mingus, Cab Calloway, and countless others, but now is the right time to finally front his own project. Titled for his age, Charlie Gabriel’s Sub-Pop debut is a comforting stroll through the saxophonist/clarinetist/vocalist’s well-worn haunts.  

Recorded predominantly in fellow Preservation Hall Jazz Band member Ben Jaffe’s kitchen with support from Joshua Starkman, 89 delivers a super relaxed feeling of old friends just letting the classic tunes take them where they will.  Drummer Walter Harris and percussionist Djallo Djakate also help out over the albums six jazz standards and two newer Preservation Hall numbers, including the sultry “Yellow Moon” which proves to be an album highlight.

It is hard to go wrong with any of the efforts here as the opening smooth flow of “Memories of You” is engulfing, with its easy bass bumps from Jaffe, nuanced strums from Starkman, and Gabriel’s warm sax work. Gabriel sings sweetly on the bluesy love tune “I’m Confessin’” and follows it up with the nighttime is the right time ode to longing desire on “The Darker It Gets”. 

“Chelsea Bridge” is the one track that feels a bit light and off, but otherwise Gabriel’s horn work cooks over his version of “Stardust” as Starkman sets a mellow tone. The hips get loose during a dynamite rendition of Duke Ellington’s “Three Little Words” which gathers up Cuban rhythmic inspiration before the album ends on an upbeat note as the full band revs up “I Get Jealous” which allows everyone to solo around Gabriel’s affable vocals. 

It may have taken a while for Charlie Gabriel to deliver 89, but the breezy album of untroubled jazz numbers was worth the wait. 

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