Saturday, November 10, 2018

Visions and Dreams (2002), by Derryl Gabel

In my quest to find guitar heroes around my age that I can follow for the next 20 or 30 years since my lifelong ones are getting older (or dying off – RIP Allan Holdsworth), I have found the Holy Grail.

Mike Moreno is an excellent jazz guitarist, and Dhani Harrison is carrying on the legacy of his legendary rocker father in new and exciting ways, but perhaps best of all, the spirit of Holdsworth lives on in the six-string savvy of fusion ax man Derryl Gabel.

Gabel actually recorded this album in the late 1990s/early 2000s, when Holdsworth was still very much alive. Only in his late 20s/early 30s at the time, Gabel was already playing on the level of Holdsworth – not even Holdsworth played like that in his 20s.

This album is hands-down absolutely and positively one of the best guitar albums of all time. It’s vibrant, uplifting, inspiring, and awesome, buoyed by Gabel’s agile dexterity and clean monster tone. Not only does Gabel’s mastery of the fretboard echo that of his esteemed predecessor, but he also incorporates elements of the compositional and playing styles of Holdsworth and Eric Johnson, among others (including Andy Summers and the late great Hiram Bullock). In fact, if I hadn’t known otherwise, I would have thought that the last song on the album, “Blue Fingers,” was an Eric Johnson recording.

Gabel literally picked up where Holdsworth left off, releasing his debut record a year after Holdsworth’s last studio album. Visions and Dreams is as good as Holdsworth’s best work. That’s no easy feat, but Gabel’s fluidity and phrasing make it seem effortless. This might as well have been an Allan Holdsworth album, if Holdsworth had returned to original studio recording and with electric guitar no less.

The fact that Gabel can at will sound exactly like Holdsworth and Johnson, as well as other established guitarists, makes him no less original. He has a style and sound all his own, even as he pays tribute to the guitar greats that came before him.

Gabel has a couple of other albums as well as additional material that are available directly from him. He also seems to be keeping very busy as an online guitar instructor. Hopefully he will find some time to record and release new albums, because for all those who have felt a void since the passing of Allan Holdsworth, Derryl Gabel fills that chasm like no other – and then some.

--Raj Manoharan

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