Reeves Gabrels on 9 August 2008
June 4, 1956 |
New York City, New York
Reeves Gabrels (born June 4, 1956) is an American guitarist, "one of the most daring rock-guitar improvisers since Jimi Hendrix - an opinion some players formed during his dozen years collaborating with British singer David Bowie."  Best known for his long partnership with Bowie, with whom he worked regularly from 1987 to 1999, Gabrels also built an active performing and recording career before, during and since, working both independently and in collaboration with musicians worldwide. He has lived in New York, Boston, London and Los Angeles, and since 2006 he has been based in Nashville, Tennessee.
Gabrels' songs and improvisations defy genre, ranging from "hard-hitting blues rock to 21st century electronica," to quote Guitar World's characterization of Ulysses, an album from 2000. He is recognized for virtuosity and versatility, a guitar player who can "explore sonic extremes with a great, adaptive intuition for what each song needs most." 
In 2012 he joined The Cure for their summer tour and will be with the band again in Spring 2013 for their eight night tour of Latin America.
Early life and education
Reeves Gabrels was born in Staten Island, New York in June 1956. His mother, Claire, was a typist and his father, Carl "Gabe", worked on tugboats in New York Harbor. Gabrels started playing guitar at age 13, and the following year (1971) his father arranged for lessons with the father's friend and contemporary Turk Van Lake, who lived in the neighborhood. Van Lake was a professional musician who had played with Benny Goodman and others.
After high school, Gabrels attended the Parsons School of Design and the School of Visual Arts in New York City but continued to play guitar. Through some session musician work he met noted jazz guitarist John Scofield, from whom he took a lesson or two. Gabrels moved to Boston to attend the Berklee School of Music, which he left several credits short of a degree in 1981.
Gabrels had an active performing career in Boston before and after his professional association with David Bowie began in the late 1980s. During the 1980s and early 1990s Gabrels was a member of such Boston bands as The Dark, Life on Earth, The Atom Said, Rubber Rodeo, The Bentmen and Modern Farmer. Modern Farmer (Gabrels, Jamie Rubin, David Hull, and Billy Beard) issued a self-titled record on Victory/Universal in 1993.
David Bowie and Reeves Gabrels met in 1987 during a Bowie tour for which Sara Terry, Gabrels' then-wife, worked as publicist. Gabrels later (1989–1993) joined forces with Bowie and the Sales brothers (drummer Hunt Sales and bass player Tony Sales) in the rock band Tin Machine. Later, Gabrels became an essential part of Bowie's nineties sound, most notably on Outside (1995), Earthling (1997), and 'hours...' (1999), the latter two of which he co-produced. "Dead Man Walking," a Bowie/Gabrels song from Earthling, was nominated for a Grammy award. Gabrels and Bowie also created the soundtrack to the computer game Omikron: The Nomad Soul in 1999 for the game's French publisher. Gabrels ended his professional association with Bowie in late 1999.
Independently, Gabrels maintained a wide-ranging career as composer/songwriter, performer/producer and musical collaborator. Recordings by Reeves Gabrels include The Sacred Squall of Now (Rounder/Upstart, 1995); Ulysses (Della Notte) (Emagine, 2000); Live, Late, Loud (Myth Music, 2003); and Rockonica (Myth Music/Favored Nations/Sony, 2005). Ulysses was nominated for a Yahoo! Internet Award in 1999 as a then-pathbreaking Internet release, before becoming available the following year on CD. Gary Oldman, David Bowie, and Frank Black appear as vocalists, the latter two with co-writing credits as well.
Gabrels has written soundtracks for films including David Sutherland's The Farmer's Wife (premiered on PBS September, 1998) and for PBS productions, and collaborated with Public Enemy on the song "Go Cat Go" for the Spike Lee film He Got Game (soundtrack, Def Jam, 1998). He wrote the "club music" portions of the soundtrack for the video game Deus Ex.
Slide guitarist David Tronzo and Reeves Gabrels made a virtuoso-duo instrumental album, Night in Amnesia, issued by Rounder Records in 1995. Gabrels also worked with Robert Smith of The Cure during the 1990s, collaborating on The Cure's track "Wrong Number" and "A Sign From God" (as COGASM) as well as co-writing the song "Yesterday's Gone" which Smith sings on Gabrels' album Ulysses.
Gabrels performs periodically with Club D'Elf, a Boston-based underground dub/jazz/Moroccan/trance/electronica group led by bassist Mike Rivard, and appears on Now I Understand, (Accurate Records, 2006), their first studio recording; the album also features John Medeski & Billy Martin (Medeski, Martin & Wood), DJ Logic, Mat Maneri, Duke Levine, Alain Mallet, Mister Rourke, and more. In 2008 German label AFM released New Universal Order by X-World/5, a Heavy metal supergroup made up of guitarists Gabrels and Andy LaRocque, vocalist Nils K. Rue, bass player Magnus Rosén, and Los Angeles-based drummer Big Swede. In 2009, Gabrels recorded and toured with New York-based punk band Jeebus.
Since 2006, Gabrels has called Nashville, Tennessee home. He plays often at local venues, especially The Family Wash, a popular East Nashville club/restaurant owned by longtime collaborator Jamie Rubin. Several recordings have resulted. "The Magnificent Others" features Rubin's songs and lead vocals, with Gabrels on lead guitar. "Sonic Mining Company," a Ropeadope Records 2012 release, is made up of improvisations by Reeves Gabrels (guitar), Frank Swart (bass) and Adam Abrashoff (drums). "REEVES GABRELS & HiS iMAGiNARY FR13NDS," planned for independent release in 2012, combines unusual blues interpretations with new songs by Gabrels. Recording personnel include Reeves Gabrels (guitar, vocals), Kevin Hornback (bass) and Jeff Brown (drums). Reeves was also a part of the odd project "From Nashville to Norway" with two festivals in Gjøvik, Norway 2010-2011.
Guitars: Gabrels has used different guitars at varied phases in his musical career, selecting instruments to suit the music. He has favored Steinberger guitars, the Parker Fly, and Fernandes Guitars, but also plays Gibson Guitars such as the Les Paul and the Flying V, as well as Fender's Stratocaster.
He has often chosen innovative, less well known makers, explaining in interviews that he prefers a guitar without a set history and with which he is free to create sounds of his own imagination.
In 2008, Gabrels began playing Reverend guitars, made by Reverend Musical Instruments of Warren, Michigan. Gabrels and Reverend have collaborated to develop a Reverend Reeves Gabrels Signature Model guitar. There are now several versions, the first featured at the winter 2010 NAMM Show in Los Angeles and the most recent to be released at NAMM in Nashville in 2012.
During The Cure's SummerCure Tour, Robert Smith gave Gabrels his Fender Bass VI in order for him to play songs such as Primary, Inbetween Days, and Push.
- The Sacred Squall of Now (1995)
- Ulysses (Della Notte) (3 Oct. 2000)
- Rockonica (2005)
- Drozdowski, Ted (November 1, 2000). "Reeves Gabrels: Scary Monsters and Other Nasty Noises". Guitar.com.
- Gary Graff, Guitar World, Feb 2001
- Adam McGovern, Encyclopedia of Rock
- See Obituary, New York Times, October 5, 2002
- John Scofield - Jazz Guitarist | Composer
- "PBS Frontline on The Farmer's Wife". Retrieved 2012-04-22.
- "Game Credits for Deus Ex". Retrieved 2008-03-09.
- See Amazon.com, The Magnificent Others, 2011
- Ross, Michael. "Review: Reverend Reeves Gabrels Signature Model". Guitar Player online.
- Bosso, Joe (5 Mar 2012). "Reeves Gabrels on his new Reverend Signature Model Guitar". Musicradar.com.