Manny Gabriel

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The musical families of New Orleans -- names such as Brunis, Marsalis, Foster, Celestin and so on and so forth -- sometimes had so many members unpacking instrument cases that it was hard to keep track…
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The musical families of New Orleans -- names such as Brunis, Marsalis, Foster, Celestin and so on and so forth -- sometimes had so many members unpacking instrument cases that it was hard to keep track of them. A case in point is the Gabriel family and particularly the clarinetist and drummer Manny Gabriel, who some jazz gravediggers insist is really the same person as Martin Gabriel, Jr.. Other bodies of research such as documentation of the famed National Orchestra of New Orleans, active from 1913 through 1932, indicate that these were two different people.

It is clear neither were the same person as their father, Martin Gabriel, Sr., a cornetist and leader of the aforementioned outfit. Dad managed to confuse the issue, however, simply by having the middle-name of "Manuel," which could easily be nicknamed down to "Manny." It should be mentioned, though, that some writers think the father's middle name was not as indicated above, but was actually "Jospeh," although that actually might be a misprint of "Joseph." Martin Gabriel, Jr. played clarinet, whereas credits for Manny Gabriel indicate a double of drums and clarinet. One of these guys, or it could have been both of them, was once described as able to make monkeys jump out of the bell of their horn, a neat trick even by New Orleans standards.

If Manny Gabriel is really Martin Gabriel, Jr., he relocated to Detroit in the late '50s to join brother Percy Gabriel in a group called Gabriel's New Orleans Jazz Band. If not, he stayed in New Orleans like the rest of his siblings. Other musical members of this family include uncle Albert "Dude" Gabriel, pianist and banjoist Clarence Gabriel, and sister Alberta Gabriel, who stuck to the piano.