trad jazz

American Routes Shortcuts: Charlie Gabriel

Oct 20, 2017
Charlie Gabriel
American Routes

Sax and clarinet player Charlie Gabriel’s roots are in New Orleans traditional jazz, but he made a name for himself playing with Lionel Hampton and Aretha Franklin. Charlie learned how to play saxophone and clarinet from his father in the Crescent City, and he began playing in local bands at age 11. As a teen, his family moved to Detroit, where he lived for almost 60 years before returning home to New Orleans to play with the Preservation Hall Jazz Band.

Derek Bridges / Flickr

What do you hear when Dr. Michael White plays his clarinet?

Can you hear the bayou? The river? The French Quarter? People sitting on their stoops waiting for someone to deliver the news? Penny parties?

That's not a clarinet in the doctor's hands; it's a time machine.

"I listened to Johnny Dodds' recordings. I listened to Sidney Bechet. I listened to George Lewis. I listened to Edmond Hall. I listened to Omer Simeon, Barney Bigard, and so many others," White says. "And you listen to that and you say, 'Wow, I would like to capture that feeling.'"