2014 / Jim Gabriel
Review by Michael Debbage
Jim Gabriel’s debut recording is a silky smooth resounding album that already has many of the music industry’s ears percolating. Let’s add this reviewer to that increasingly growing list. With the production talents of Will Ackerman and some of his A Team performing, Sojourn has the perfect ingredients in place. However the largest component is the perfect performance of Jim Gabriel whose musical style is soft to the touch with delicate but memorable melodies that have room to breathe.
Sojourn is a brilliant well balanced album compiled of solo and ensemble compositions of which nine are self composed songs. The album begins with the unassuming solo piano piece “South Bend, Indiana 1989” which was the year that time stood still in South Bend, Indiana when they chose not to recognize Daylight Savings Time. Whether or not this is what the song is all about, stylistically she is a perfect match with Gabriel’s presentation being intentionally slow, purposeful and full of room to inhale and exhale. Similar magical results can be found on the remaining balance of the three solo performances presenting an almost improvisational quality to them with just enough structure to avoid meandering thus never losing his audience.
The remaining balance of the album includes varying levels of ensemble pieces with appearances from Will Ackerman on percussion, Jeff Pearce on Chapman stick, Charlie Bisharat on violin and Tony Levin on bass. The latter two performers are simply intoxicating on “Dayspring” with Gabriel’s piano presentation probably at its most liveliness. However, it appears Gabriel is most at home when he collaborates with Eugene Friesen on cello. This is reflected by Friesen appearing on a total of five songs that is featured as early as track two entitled “Chaccone”. The song title refers to a type of musical composition that was popular in the baroque era where a repeated short harmonic progression is used alongside a repetitive bass line. It is Gabriel’s lower scaled piano work that replaces an actual bass as the song builds in unison with Friesen’s cello work. Similar melodrama can be found on the heartrending “Hopes Forgotten” only to be countered by the more vulnerable “To The Sky” which pays tribute to Gabriel’s recently passed away father.
Though formally released at the very tail end of 2013, promotional efforts did not begin until 2014. With that in mind Sojourn is one of the most impressive debuts in years and there is every likelihood that it will be featured on many end of the year favorite lists. With absolutely no filler in sight on this magical debut, the one downside to releasing a pearl like Sojourn is having to follow in its footsteps. But for now allow Gabriel’s ultra smooth style massage your ears into a peaceful submissive surrender even if it is a temporary stay of escape.
June 29, 2014