Gina Sobel is a kaleidoscope of musical talent, genres, and pure vibe. A young and vibrant part of the new face of jazz music, Gina is a multi-instrumentalist who rips through long-held stereotypes to forge her own sound, which is being met with enthusiasm by a growing and diverse audience.
Raised in northern Virginia, Gina grew up in a household filled with a rich mix of jazz music. “I’ve been playing music forever,” she says fondly. “My dad’s a jazz guitarist so it’s always been around – it’s a family value.” Exploring jazz music as a young musician, at age 10, after some early piano lessons, Gina picked up the flute — “my first ‘real instrument’ that I took very seriously,” she says. Initially part of a strongly classically focused program, Gina soon realized her passion lay in a variety of musical sounds — jazz, rock, and beyond-rather than sitting in a practice room memorizing classical pieces.
Her early influences include Herbie Hancock — “I could listen to Herbie Hancock for a million years and never get tired of him”-and guitarist Bill Frisell. “Man, talk about not paying attention to the genre!” Gina says. “I would love to play flute for him one day.” By college, she was a busy working musician, exploring the world of eight gigs a week, playing in a multitude of bands, and playing a variety of instruments. In addition to flute, Gina plays guitar, saxophone, and sings, which puts her in high demand. “Someone needs a sax player? Great, I’m there,” she says. “That’s where I got the chance to play in so many different bands which helped me start my own jazz and rock bands.”
Gina fronts both bands. Her rock band is called Gina Sobel and the Mighty Fine, composed mostly of jazz musicians who love playing rock and roll. They just finished releasing an album, Burn Off the Dust, and touring to support the release. She also fronts the Sobel 4tet, a predominately instrumental band that plays a lot of original jazz.
Yet Gina remains unconcerned with genre and expectation. “When I’m writing, I’m not really thinking about genre, I’m not thinking about what instruments I’m going to play- I’m thinking about what sounds good. What gets across is what I want to reach musically. How it will feel to listen to it.” The result is a multilayered sonic experience, exploring the ideas she chooses to communicate. “The end result is that a lot of it you can’t put into a specific genre. But I’m not thinking about that. I’m just thinking about making music.”
“One of the things that used to bug me about playing was that the EQ was always off…so I’d spend hours [in sound check] trying to get my sound exactly where I wanted it to be, and then when we were on stage, the mix and equipment wouldn’t be good enough. That changed when I got the Audix mic. It totally changed.”
Now, Gina gets the exact sound she wants every single time. “I’ve never been able to sound more like myself with any other kind of microphone.
Especially playing in really loud settings, like with rock bands, nothing else cuts through the mix and gives me that clarity.” Sound engineers continue to remark on the mic as well. “It’s funny, whenever I play a venue, they want to set me up with whatever mic they use for flute players, and I say, ‘No, I have to use my mic.’ And at the end of the show, they ask, ‘What is that called? Where can I get that?’” Whether she’s opening for Kool and the Gang, or playing a show at a hot spring-“I’ve played some very interesting venues” — the ADX10 miniaturized condenser microphones flute mic does everything the gig demands of it.
Gina also uses Audix for vocals. “The OM6 [dynamic vocal microphone] has incredible warmth and incredible clarity,” she says. “It’s difficult to find a vocal mic that excels in both of those features, and the best thing is that I don’t have to work hard to make myself heard. This mic projects my voice so well that I can focus on subtleties like dynamics, timbre, and tone quality.”
For saxophone, Gina relies on the Audix ADX20iminiaturized condenser instrument microphone. “It’s always been difficult for me to stay on a stationary mic when playing,” says Gina. “I love to move on stage, interacting with the rest of the band and following the vibe of the music. The ADX20i condenser instrument mic not only reproduces my sound in a fantastic and honest way, but it also gives me that freedom of movement.”
For the future, Gina continues to work on new music and live shows with both bands, and most of all, to perform, create, and stretch the limits of her innovation. “I’ve gotten to sit in with a lot of great bands. I love going up and not knowing anything about the song — getting in there, and just keep playing, and reading the vibe of the moment. There’s nothing like it.”
For more info about Gina Sobel, visit www.ginasobel.com.
Photos courtesy of Tristan Williams.