For many musicians, there comes a time when being a successful sideman isn't enough and a true artist with a unique voice emerges. Percussionist Tony Gable, best known to audiences the world over as the burly guy adding rhythmic textures to the touring and studio bands of instrumental superstar Kenny G, has after 20 years in the music business finally found that voice. With the release of Tony Gable & 206, Gable and his dynamic supporting cast show the kind of melodic sensibilities which propelled the G-man to the peak of the genre. Add to this the intensely grooving nature of Tony's playing style, and elements of soul and funk deriving from his extensive background in these arenas, and 206 is clearly headed for similar heights.
"New York jazz has a sound; L.A. jazz has a sound. My concept was to gather an aggregation of local musicians to showcase a distinctive Seattle sound,'' Tony explains. "I wanted to show that there are quality musicians here that people outside the region may not be aware of, some of whom are also from Kenny's band. I wanted to incorporate the type of music we played with him into more rhythmic jazz and R&B styles."
With special guest Kenny G producing and performing, 206 showcases some exceptional soul-flavor tracks. "The Slip" sets the tone with a cool, funky groove and John Raymond's tight electric lines being balanced with Tony's lush soundscaping. Kenny G's trademark soprano blends wonderfully with Tony's romantic vocal style on the seductive Quiet Storm magic of "Island Lady," which also features a gorgeous grand piano solo by Bela Havasretti.
Tony's smooth conga beat forms the backdrop for the breezy silk grooves of "Camano Island," which features George Benson-like guitar flair courtesy of guest performer Michael Powers. The electric funk fire of Raymond fuels "Lake Union," while "Futon Fun" punches up with Larry Mills' electric bass, the up-grooving sax of Darren Montamedy and some wild Tony conga licks. "Tailwind" is what Tony refers to as a callback to the days he and Kenny G played the music of Grover Washington, Jr., a light funk number featuring Kenny on the deeper textures of the tenor sax. "The Bus Song", fittingly written on the Kenny G tour bus from Miami to Memphis, offers more cool soul, sweet melody and hot percussion elements.
"Pockets," titled for the openings it provides for Tony's percussion textures, has a tougher edge to energize the hot electric guitar melody and synth harmony. "Homeport" provides an artistic break in the action, digging deeper into the jazz-fusion vein for a stirring combination of a moody bass groove, brassy harmonics, rich saxwork and steamy guitar work, with lots of improvisation for good measure. Ending on a lighter note, "Chili C" is a breezy, melodic tribute to its composer, Charles Jones.