Jazz Trumpeter Gabriel Mervine Releases Two New Albums on Octave Records

Jazz Trumpeter Gabriel Mervine Releases Two New Albums on Octave Records

Written by Frank Doris

Jazz trumpet virtuoso Gabriel Mervine has released two new albums for Octave Records: See Somethin’ and I Wish You Love, both recorded using Octave’s Pure DSD 256 recording system. See Somethin’ is the follow-up to Say Somethin’, Octave Records’ most popular release to date, and captures a spontaneous live-in-the-studio session. I Wish You Love features the remarkable Alicia Straka on accordion and vocals on a musically diverse album of Brazilian- and European-flavored jazz.

Both albums were recorded and mixed at Octave Studios in Boulder, Colorado using Pure DSD 256 technology based around the state-of-the-art Pyramix high-recording system. The sound is spacious and natural, with extraordinary musical realism. Gabriel’s trumpet and the other instruments have lifelike warmth, body, and clarity, with a presence that makes you feel as if you’re in the studio with them.



See Somethin', album cover.


See Somethin’ showcases Gabriel Mervine’s quartet with Braxton Kahn on drums, Alex Heffron on guitar, and Seth Lewis on bass. The group performs five original compositions and a selection of covers, from plaintive ballads to a swinging take on the country and western standard “I’m an Old Cowhand.” The quartet has been playing together for a long time, and you can feel it in their incisive yet relaxed interplay and improvisation.

I Wish You Love features a larger ensemble, expanding Gabriel’s quartet with Alicia on accordion and vocals, and guests including M’hamed El Menjra and Ian Faquini on guitars, Natalie Cressman playing trombone and Virginia MacDonald on clarinet. The music is richly textured and highlights the group’s tightly-knit ensemble playing, from up-tempo workouts like “Ups and Downs” and “Ameno Ressda” to Alicia’s gorgeous singing and atmospheric accordion playing on the title track.

See Somethin’ and I Wish You Love feature Octave’s premium gold disc formulation, and the discs are playable on any SACD, CD, DVD, or Blu-ray player. They also have a high-resolution DSD layer that is accessible by using any SACD player or a PS Audio SACD transport. In addition, the master DSD and PCM files are available for purchase and download, including DSD 256, DSD 128, DSD 64, and DSDDirect Mastered 352.8 kHz/24-bit, 176.2 kHz/24-bit, 88.2 kHz/24-bit, and 44.1 kHz/24-bit PCM. (SRP: $19 – $39, depending on format.)

It's always a pleasure to talk with Gabriel. Why release two albums at once? Here’s what he had to say.



I Wish You Love, album cover.


Frank Doris: Your new releases, See Somethin’ and I Wish You Love, are two very different albums. I am guessing they were recorded maybe a year or so apart, or a few months apart?

Gabriel Mervine: They were done just a couple of weeks apart.

FD: Really?

GM: We were actually set to do just one recording, and that would've been the Brazilian music, [I Wish You Love]. But Alicia Straka, who was going to play accordion and sing, fell ill the day before the recording session. We'd already booked the studio time, so I just said, “hey, let's go into the studio anyway. We'll record something else.” So we just showed up, wrote the music right there, and recorded [See Somethin’]. It took about three and a half hours, and that was it.

And then once Alicia was better, which took a couple of weeks, we went in and recorded the other album.

FD: Wow. I assumed that See Somethin’ had repertoire that you guys had been playing for years, and you're telling me you came up with it on the fly.

GM: The original music was basically written at the studio that morning. We were literally just waiting for Alex {Heffron], the guitarist, to show up. He was running late, so I wrote two songs in about 15 minutes, and he had one that he wanted to record that he had written previously, so we said “let's just have fun and play some music together and see what happens.” And it was fantastic.

FD: Yet you sound like a band that's been playing for years and is really comfortable with the material.

GM: We are quite comfortable with each other. The drummer, Braxton Kahn, and I play every Tuesday. I've been playing with Alex Heffron for years and years, and I play with [bassist] Seth Lewis about once a week. So our rapport is definitely there.

FD: Most bands would have to rehearse and rehearse and rehearse and play it live a few times to work the bugs out.

GM: I call this music high-risk, high-reward. Sometimes you go for it and you fall on your face, and you have to be OK with that. But you also get some moments that you couldn't have gotten had you rehearsed.

FD: Funny that you do “I’m an Old Cowhand” on See Somethin’. When I first heard it I thought it was one of the corniest songs I’d ever heard, but it just goes to show anything can be adapted for jazz.

GM: A hundred percent. Someone requested that a couple months back and I’d forgotten about the Sonny Rollins recording of it [on Way Out West]. I thought, let's do it. It'll be something different. And it was.

FD: That makes two of us – I forgot about the Sonny Rollins version too.

This is probably a silly question in light of what you’ve said, but did you guys basically play See Somethin’ live in the studio?

GM: Oh, yeah. We were all in one room together, so everything you hear is what happened live.

It [would have been] really difficult to punch anything [in] or add anything because we were in a room together, so there's a fair amount of drums [bleeding into] the bass microphone, and there's a fair amount of guitar in the trumpet microphone. But I'll say it was really fun to just not even have to wear headphones [and] just go into a room and play. I think it makes the mixing and mastering a little bit more difficult, but it's nice to just be hanging out, playing tunes in a room.

FD: Who did the mixing?

GM: I had my friend Colin Bricker do the mixing on this. Paul McGowan ran the studio session. Colin really brought some warmth and depth to the music and the album, I think.

FD: Speaking of warmth and depth, let’s talk about the album you did with Alicia, I Wish You Love. It's a totally different feel and approach than See Somethin’ and Alicia is all over this thing.

GM: She and I have been friends for quite a while, and I've been into this kind of Brazilian music for a long time. [Alicia and I] started performing together and I decided we should do an album. [Brazilian music] poses such a great challenge to me as a student of the trumpet, because the melodies are extremely difficult. It’s like playing classical music to me. We were in the room together [when we recorded], so what you hear is what we played, and it was pushing me to the very limits of my technical ability on the instrument.

I brought in some other friends who are interested in this music as well. Natalie Cressman (on trombone) and Ian Faquini (guitar) contributed to one track remotely from San Francisco. My friend M’hamed El Menjra, who lives in Paris, contributed a track remotely. And Virginia MacDonald, who lives in Toronto, contributed to a track remotely too. So it was a lot of work to get this album together, but I'm really happy with it. And like you said, it's something pretty unique.

FD: You wouldn't know that that stuff was flown in.

GM: It's incredible. I never would've thought I would be doing recording that way until the pandemic.

FD: Between the two albums, you have quite a range of styles of guitar playing. Did you pick the players (Alex Heffron on See Somethin’ and M’hamed El Menjra and Ian Faquini on I Wish You Love) because you wanted certain styles and sounds on certain tracks?

GM: Everyone who played guitar on these albums I trust completely and I’m going to let them do their thing. Alex Heffron gets a little experimental. The old-school sound on See Somethin’ is great too. I love the instrument, its variance and tone.

FD: Is Alicia Straka native to France or Canada? She just sounds so convincing with French-language material.

GM: Well, she's a trained opera singer. I want to say she’s from Washington. I should know!

FD: It’s not only her singing and inflection, but the way she plays the accordion – it has such a European flavor.

GM: She's a master. I mean, when she and I got together to practice this music, I was like, “I’ve got to practice!” She could already play all of it. She had all of it down. I spent a lot of time trying to keep up with her, and every time I'd count something off, she'd say, “oh, I usually do this faster!”

FD: Your trumpet playing sounds like it's evolved, yet also sounds more timeless. It sounds like it could have been recorded in 1950, or yesterday.

GM: Well, that's my favorite part of any kind of art, like when you're reading a great book. I've been reading Tom Robbins lately. And it's the same thing. I was [thinking], this could have been written yesterday, and it was written in 1980. But yeah, I enjoy the process. I enjoy the journey. I still enjoy practicing a lot, and I don't want to become stagnant. So hopefully my sound evolves and my playing style evolves, and most importantly, maybe my voice evolves. One thing I do notice is getting more comfortable with what I want to play as an artist and as a music supervisor, as opposed to what I feel like “should” be played.

I was talking to some students about that just yesterday. I feel like young students are in such a rush. Partly it’s because we see these young phenoms on YouTube or whatever. But in jazz, you're not reaching maturity [at an early age]. You're still young when you're 45. You're still young when you're 50; coming into your own takes years and years. Miles Davis said that it takes a long time to play like yourself.

FD: I spend too much time on guitar discussion forums where people go on and on about how to learn jazz vocabulary. One person commented that you can play all the scales you want and copy everybody all you want, but ultimately, you have to go beyond all that and not even think that way. And then, like you say, find your own voice, and man, yours is really coming through.

GM: Thank you. I think about it a lot, and then try to develop it for that reason. I understand we're trying to be part of a lineage in an art form. So, there is a language there to learn and study for sure. But at a certain point, it becomes about developing your own way, and that's why I brought up the author Tom Robbins, because he has a way of manipulating words and language that is uniquely his own. It reminds me of Thelonious Monk.

We all have to do it at [some] point, to [learn to] understand the art form from somebody who gets us into the music, whether it's Freddie Hubbard or Thelonious Monk or John Coltrane. You spend time learning their patterns and their ideas, with the eventuality of getting into your own sounds and your own patterns.

FD: I know I’ve asked you this before, but I don't remember anything at my advanced old age, so: what kind of trumpet do you play?

GM: I'm playing a Yamaha on both albums.

FD: Do you find yourself reaching for different trumpets to get different sounds?

GM: Sometimes I'll change mouthpieces. The trumpet can remain the same, but you can utilize a different mouthpiece for different performances. I’ll play [anything from] small-group jazz, [to] lead trumpet, some salsa, some commercial band stuff. And if I stick right in the middle of the road [with my trumpet and mouthpiece] I can usually move in [any] direction relatively easily, which I have to do from day to day and week to week.

FD: I think going out of your comfort zone makes you a better player.

GM: Oh, for sure. I've been realizing that more and more.

FD: How could you ever just sit there and say, “OK, I've learned everything. I'm as good as I'm going to get.” No, never.

GM: Yeah, that's not really how art works. It's okay to feel that way, especially if [you’re doing it as] a hobby, but for me, I really want to keep pushing and progressing and learning new stuff and learning new music. And that's a big part of what I was doing with Alicia, just pushing myself in a direction [where] I really hadn't gone.

I'm excited to put [I Wish You Love] out into the world, because I feel like it is a “world” album. It not only has some world music; it's got musicians all over the globe.

FD: It’s not just a “jazz” album.

GM: That was the goal. It took tons of work and a lot of prep, while [See Somethin’] was recorded in the quickest, last-minute, Miles Davis-possible way. It’s fun to have both of these albums coming out and I’m excited to share this new music.

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