Gabriel Music Society

Third Generation

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Martin (Manny) Gabriel (1898-1982) played clarinet & drums. Martin Manuel also known as Little Manny, switched to clarinet after he was diagnosed with rheumatism in his hands. He studied clarinet under the revered Professor Jim Humphrey (grandfather of the renown Humphrey brothers). He played in his father’s band The National Jazz Orchestra of New Orleans, The Work Progress Administration Band (WPA), and The Gabriel Trio Band with brothers Percy and Clarence. He continued the fmaily legacy by teaching his children and giving music lessons. In the 1940s he moved his family to Detroit and continued playing New Orleans music in The Motor City.

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Clarence Gabriel (1905-1981)became a valuable rhythm section player, adept at piano, guitar, and banjo, in several different ensembles fronted by his father Martin Joseph. He also taught his brother Percy how to play the guitar.

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Percy Gabriel (1915-1993) played the bass and sang. Beginning in the ’30s, Percy Gabriel was branching out on his own in a city steaming with jazz action, at that point performing on tenor sax as well as bass.He had a trio with brother Clarence Gabriel, following which Percy joined a band led by Kid Rena. His next employer was Harold Dejan, whose main gigs were on boats sailing between New Orleans and New York.

The idea to jump ship and stay in the Apple occurred to many a jazzman in these circumstances. Gabriel did just that, adjusting to a new life in Harlem working with players such as Bob Robinson. He also went on tour in Florida with Jack Sneed, a vocalist whose name sounds like it was invented by comedian W.C. Fields. Gabriel next showed up back in his hometown, playing there in a variety of outfits including ensembles led by Hubert Leary, Papa Celestin, and Sidney Desvigne. Don Albert pulled him west to Texas for a stint in a territorial band, after which he once again returned to New Orleans, this time starting up his own group.
But Gabriel was not bound to stay in one place blowing his horn, or rather thumping his bass. He was on to Chicago, on tour with Kansas City jazz maestro Jay McShann, on the West Coast laying down something of a funkier beat with Jesse Price, and then back in New Orleans once again. In the late ’40s he gigged with players such as Lucky Millinder and Paul Barbarin, continuing to follow a muse rooted in classic New Orleans jazz. Detroit turned out to be this player’s stomping ground in the ’50s. His brother Martin Gabriel, Jr., a clarinetist, joined him there in order to co-lead a combo called Gabriel’s New Orleans Jazz Band. In the ’60s and ’70s both brothers were working regularly out of the Motor City. In his old age Percy Gabriel became a valuable resource for music historians, providing anecdotes from eras when he admitted to working for only a dollar a night.


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