Paul Gabriel - What's The Chance

Gabriel calls on old friend Duke Robillard for a romp through (mostly) familiar territory
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The ever-prolific Duke Robillard - the go-to producer for swing and jump blues artists seeking a professional sheen - puts his stamp firmly on Paul Gabriel's solo debut, What's The Chance.  And that, as usual, is a very good thing indeed.

Gabriel, an old friend of Robillard's (the two met in the early 70's), often treads the same territory as Duke at his swinging best, and with Duke's own band and first-call friends adding additional support to an already supple combo, the sound is frequently familiar.

Much of the fare - Gabriel who wrote all but two of the tracks here, with bassist Billy Bileca contributing one - varies from jazzy, swinging numbers featuring both Robillard and Gabriel's fleet fretwork, to slashing grinders with a tough, nasty sound.  Along the way, though, there are enough detours to keep things interesting and highlight Gabriel's strong songwriting.

Things kick off with a one-two punch via the bouncy "Old Time Ball" and the crunching "Ride, Ride, Ride," but the title track turns out to be a breezy love song, as hopeful and bright as a warm summer's day.  There's lots more jump and blues, in addition to cool jazz (instrumental  "328 Chauncy Street)  and the delightfully lazy and laconic "Devil's Daughter."  

"Roomful Of Blues" turns out to have nothing to do with the musical institution Duke co-founded; instead it's a moody, minor-key exploration of almost existential anguish, while "Fine At'Tire," one of the disc's finest moments, is a touching piano-and-voice narrative with a boozy, late-night-saloon feel.  The lone cover is a romping run through Chris Kenner's swampy "Something You Got."

The remainder of the tracks, whether furiously swinging, jumpy numbers or stinging, string-heavy blues, are all handled impeccably.  Gabriel's vocals are adequate although not terribly expressive, but the guitar work throughout is exemplary, and the band, including horns from - small world! - Roomful of Blues, is utterly impeccable.

Good stuff, this!