Gabriel Johnson has made his music, thoughts and imagination accessible to his audiences during his concerts and as a result of his excellent debut recording titled Introducing Gabriel Johnson. The artist’s creativity is seemingly accessed by way of a vast reservoir of classical and contemporary training as well as his recording sessions and touring experiences that have given him a personal guide to music’s expressive and communicative reach.
At his recent all acoustic concert at Upstairs at Vitello’s, the trendy nightclub in Studio City, CA, Grammy-nominated pianist John Beasley, guitarist Tim Kobza, drummer Aaron McLendon, and bassist Lyman Medieros provided the fuel for the blaze of Gabriel’s imagination as a trumpeter. Johnson used his muse thoroughly, and performed a rich tapestry of original songs and covers to a capacity crowd that included such celebrities and entertainment industry professionals as Chris Botti, Vincent Wilburn, Jr., and Erin Davis, among others.
Gabriel Johnson opened his set with “Alone Together” and followed up with a progressive jazz version of “Summertime.” Gabriel kept the audience captivated with several original songs from his debut album and with snappy repartee about Clint Eastwood and how meeting him led to his employment on the “End Title” of the soundtrack for Eastwood’s film called The Changeling. Johnson’s duet with guitarist Tim Kobza was a minimalist version of the strings’ arrangement that was featured on the film’s soundtrack, but it was well sustained and just as emotional. After a brief story about his mom, the audience was treated to an inspired and riveting performance of “No Words.” This song featured Gabriel’s versatile technique and a spellbinding exploration of horn registers that resonated with the audience long after the song was over.
Later in the set, the ensemble validated their ability as interpreters of ambient music with a beautiful variation of Erik Satie’s “Gymnopédie No.1.” Johnson’s trumpet perspective was beautiful yet melancholy and was complimented by John Beasley’s gentle pianism. The room was absolutely silent and once completed, the ensemble received a very appreciative ovation.
The group closed the set with a rock/jazz version of “Codec,” Radiohead’s hit. With his full range of power trumpeting pulsating out front, Gabriel and the band were exciting, exhilarating and enthralling. “Body and Soul” was the encore duet with John Beasley and together, they provided a multitude of musical imagery that they’ve refined as a result of their previous collaborations and current contemporary thoughts and ideas.
This stimulating performance certainly illuminated the ensemble’s major musical talents on a different level and gave this audience a deeper understanding of Gabriel Johnson’s rise to fame and his artistic maturity. For details on upcoming performances, please visit www.gabrieljohnsonmusic.com.