To even the most casual of music historians, Detroit’s rich musical heritage is no secret. This town’s roots in jazz and Motown put us on the map years ago, and much of that inspiration can be traced to the Crescent City. Our link to New Orleans is undeniable.
And for jazz musicians like Charlie Gabriel, it’s practically the cradle of American civilization.
Gabriel, the 82-year-old Preservation Hall Jazz Band clarinetist, was born in the Big Easy and raised in Detroit. His family, seven generations deep, is without a doubt American jazz royalty.
This weekend, Gabriel and the legendary house band from New Orleans’ Preservation Hall come back to town with Rock and Roll Hall of Famer Allen Toussaint on piano. The show takes place at 8 p.m. Friday night at Music Hall. (Click here for our interview with Preservation Hall Jazz Band creative director Ben Jaffe.)
Afterward, inside Music Hall’s Jazz Cafe, Detroit’s own Gabriel Brass Band will host a party in support of Gabriel Hall,
the Gabriel Family’s new restaurant and music venue slated to open next year in Woodbridge.
We caught up with Gabriel Brass Band leader Dameon Gabriel to see how things are shaping up.
So tell us about Gabriel Hall. What’s it going to be like?
It’s going to be a restaurant with live entertainment. There will also be a tribute to the family history with pictures and archives. It’ll be like a mini museum.
What’s all gonna be on the menu at Gabriel Hall?
The food alone is gonna be exciting. Right now we’re hosting these New Orleans nights around town, just testing certain items to see what takes and what doesn’t. We’re gonna have a few different kinds of gumbo, jambalaya, po boy sandwiches, crawfish etoufee.
What about red beans and rice? Louis Armstrong used to sign his letters “Red beans and ricely yours.”
Yeah … you know, it’s not as familiar to Detroiters yet. But on Mondays in New Orleans, a lot of families still do red beans and rice, so maybe we’ll have a special on Mondays. I think we can get the ball rollin’ on that. Dessert wise, we have this awesome Caribbean rum cake — so we’re gonna have that and bread pudding. Our chef is from Louisiana, so you know it’s gonna be good.
Your cousin Larry plays in the Gabriel Brass Band, and he also writes for the Metro Times
. Is he any good in the kitchen?
You know what, I think Larry is an authentic taste-tester!
So he’s not gonna whip up a batch of kind brownies for 4/20?
Ha! Nah, I don’t think Larry’s much of a cook.
So you guys already have a space for Gabriel Hall … how’s it coming along?
Good, it’s in Woodbridge on Trumbull between I-94 and Warren [Avenue], just a block south of the Woodbridge Pub. I’m working with the landlord, and he’s working on some of the build-out now. … He’s gonna be doing construction probably all through the spring.
What was in that space prior to Gabriel Hall?
It used to be a liquor store or something. Now it’s gonna be probably two or three businesses in the same commercial space. … They’re also working on a pizzeria next door to the [Woodbridge] Pub.
So after the big show on Friday night, you’re hosting a special reception at the Jazz Cafe — the Gabriel Hall Experience.
Yeah, you can come out and meet the guys in both bands, the Preservation Hall Jazz Band, and the Gabriel Brass Band. We’re gonna have some Creole tapas on the menu so people can get a taste of what Gabriel Hall will be like. We'll also have a live DJ who'll play a mix of New Orleans and Detroit music.
MT: You guys hosted a workshop at Cass Tech
the other day. How’d that go?
Man, when you have that many moving parts, you never know how it’s gonna go — but it was phenomenal. The kids were really responsive. [The Preservation Hall Jazz Band] did a lot of call-and-response stuff, and the kids would just sing it back. We talked a lot about traditional jazz and second lines and jazz funerals. They were playing a tune and then Marcus [Belgrave] just kinda came out surprised everyone.
Then we kind of segued into a question-and-answer with Charlie and Marcus and they kinda swapped stories about meeting each other back in the day. … Marcus always says, “Once you’re in the Gabriel Family, there’s no getting out."
For a better taste of Gabriel Hall, have a look at their Kickstarter campaign: