Big band music attracts ageless appeal
By Ed Karvoski Jr., Contributing WriterWestborough – Big band music fans who missed the Valentine’s Dance held Feb. 15 at Acacia at Indian Meadows have more chances to catch performances by Dan Gabel and the Abletones. They will entertain at that location the first Friday of each month beginning March 1 from 7:30 to 10:30 p.m.
Gabel, a 24-year-old trombonist, leads the 18-piece band with members ranging in age from 18 to 86.
“It’s a wide range of ages, which mirrors our audience,” he said. “The second generation of big band musicians, who are now in their 80s, remember the bands playing live, so their experience helps everybody else. And then the impetus that ties it all together is my studying this music for my entire life.”
As president and CEO of the American Big Band Preservation Society, Gabel endorses the mission to preserve, promote and perform big band music. He and the band have conducted music programs at elementary and high schools.
“We played at a high school dance, where there were about 200 kids packed into their auditorium, all dressed in period clothes,” he said. “People of all ages are telling me they’re looking for something different to do.”
The idea of an ongoing showcase locally was developed when Gabel was introduced to music promoter Charlie Messier, who books acts such as the Four Freshmen. Messier meets regularly with colleagues including deejays from the Worcester-based WICN-FM Public Radio.
“We get together and spin ideas off each other, and hopefully come up with some good ones,” Messier said. “The deejays at WICN have been promoting Dan for quite some time. They started talking about Dan’s band and I got interested. A 24-year-old kid leading a big band is pretty extraordinary.”
Gabel now meets and shares ideas with them.
“Dan can easily relate with older people because of the studies he’s done as a jazz historian,” Messier said.
They also hope the monthly “First Friday Swing” becomes an intergenerational experience.
“We’re trying to provide a place for kids to hang out together and listen to good music,” Messier explained.
Their goal is for young musicians to appear as the opening act, and then later perform along with Gabel and his band. Messier has contacted band leaders at several area high schools and said he has received positive feedback.
Gabel understands the importance of nurturing musical talent early.
“My dad played the trombone, so I started playing his horn when I was 10,” he said. “My folks bought me a Tommy Dorsey record and I fell in love with that sound immediately.”
He formed his first band as a seventh-grader with his best friend, Jim Gancarz, who is still the drummer of the Abletones.
At age 13, Gabel performed with a swing band at Southgate at Shrewsbury, a retirement community. In recent years, the Abletones have appeared at Southgate’s outdoor summer concert series, as well as at the Willows at Westborough, another retirement community. They’re booked to return to both venues this summer.
Also this summer, the band will appear at Scullers Jazz Club in Boston to commemorate the release of their second CD, “Homesick for New England,” which was recorded live at Mechanics Hall in Worcester. Gabel was inspired to record songs about the region while on tour with the Glenn Miller Orchestra, playing 310 dates in 2009 in 46 states, Canada and Japan.
“I came up with the concept while on the road in Japan,” he relayed. “It was Thanksgiving, and I missed turkey dinner with family and friends back home.”
For the dates of “First Friday Swing” and other bookings, visit TheAbletones.com and click “Upcoming Events.”
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