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From Motown To Fusion and Back To Motown: Meet Bassist Gabriel Severn


From Motown To Fusion and Back To Motown: Meet Bassist Gabriel Severn

Just a few months after his first bass lesson at age 7, the young Gabriel Severn joined a Motown tribute band and learned to lay down a groove.

That band performed almost 100 times over the span of several years in Gabriel’s hometown in Pennsylvania, appearing at events, benefits, music festivals, and on radio and TV. At 12 Gabriel was featured on the Detroit Bass Players in the BASSMINT series, and now, at 14, Gabriel will be a special guest artist at Detroit’s annual BASSDAY event held at the Motown Museum and the Aretha Franklin Café.

Gabriel developed a love for the bass before he could even talk. His intense devotion to music coupled with a desire to master the bass has taken him on a memorable journey: he’s won five DownBeat awards, performed coast to coast, appeared at many notable music festivals, performed alongside several of his musical heroes, recorded his award-winning original music with prominent jazz artists, and had his music spun on radio stations around the world – all before his 14th Birthday.?

Gabriel’s musical sophistication and depth has earned him three 2019 and two 2018 DownBeat Student Music Awards, considered the most prestigious awards in jazz education and the educational equivalent to the GRAMMYs. 

A love of Brazilian bossa nova and samba inspired Gabriel to write the tune “Song for Fina”, which he dedicated to a close family friend for her birthday.  It evolved into a DownBeat award-winning composition, and he made his recording debut with “Song for Fina” in late 2018. His follow-up tune, “Kick Start”, was released in February and earned him a second DownBeat Award in composition. Guitarist Chieli Minucci, the multiple Emmy Award winner, multiple GRAMMY Award nominee, and Special EFX leader took the producer’s seat, and the project also features world-class Special EFX members Joel Rosenblatt (drums) and Jay Rowe (keys). 

Jazz and fusion filled Gabriel’s ears as a baby and as a toddler, he’d call out “the bass! the bass!” in the car and at concerts.

The moment he was shown a Jaco Pastorius video at age 2, he was hooked. While learning the Motown classics with the tribute band, Gabriel would push himself by transcribing jazz and fusion bass solos. At age 11, he received international recognition with his video playing Jaco’s challenging bass solo in “Havona”. The video was followed by many more that showcased his diverse skills and musicianship, and his remarkable playing grabbed the attention of many, setting his professional career into motion. He became the first Markbass Rising Star, joined the Ernie Ball Music Man family of artists, and developed a custom line of bass strings made by Carlos Pavicich in France. He recently became an endorsing artist for the Paul Lairat Stega fretless bass, and he endorses several other companies, including Singular Sound, Advanced and Soundbrenner. 

When Gabriel turned 12, he gathered some of central PA’s best and most promising young musicians to form the jazz fusion band, Teen Town. Teen Town has gone on to win a 2019 DownBeat award, has toured throughout Pennsylvania, and is taking audiences by storm audiences by storm with their fresh approach to fusion, their undeniable chemistry, and their exceptional talent and energy. While their name pays homage to one of the great jazz fusion tunes of the ’70s, their music spans several decades and genres, from originals to the Average White Band to Weather Report to Chick Corea. Teen Town has opened for a number of major artists, including the Victor Wooten Trio, the Tierney Sutton Band, and the Original Drifters, and they’ve appeared at many notable festivals and events, including the 2018 and 2019 Boscov’s Berks Jazz Festival, the 2017 and 2018 Dauphin County Wine & Jazz Festival, the Scranton Jazz Festival, and TEDx Harrisburg.  ?

As a soloist, Gabriel has been a guest with many ensembles in the past seven years.

Those credits include performing at the 2018 and 2019 NAMM Shows in LA, the 2018 Dallas International Guitar Festival, the Berkshires Jazz Festival, and recently at the 2019 Philadelphia WimBash with Doug Wimbish of Living Colour. He’s studied with and been mentored by Victor Wooten, Anthony Wellington, Gerald Veasley, Adam Nitti, and many others. He’s had the honor of receiving scholarships and attending Wooten’s Bass/Nature Camp, the Berklee College of Music’s Groove School, the Central PA Jazz Camp, Gerald Veasley’s Bass Bootcamp, the Keystone Jazz Institute and the Uptown Music Collective.

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