Late bloomer

CeCe Gable takes the road less traveled to a singing career

Photo By David Robert

CeCe Gable’s CD release for You Are Not Alone is at Esoteric Coffeehouse & Gallery April 27 at 6:30 p.m. There is no cover. Her album is available at Soundwave CDs and Tower Records. She performs at 6:30 p.m. every Thursday at 4th Street Bistro, 3065 W. Fourth St.

CeCe Gable’s first attempt at singing in front of an audience ended poorly. She forgot the words halfway through her first song and scatted the rest of the way through it. But despite her rocky start, she has persevered.

Not only did Gable get off to a rocky start, she got off to a late start. Most singers are singers for life, but Gable didn’t even sing to herself, much less anybody else, until her 30s.

“I didn’t sing at all my whole life after the age of 6,” Gable says, with a laugh of disbelief. “If I did sing, it was softly.”

When Gable was young, the trumpet was her musical outlet.

“I took trumpet lessons from the time I had permanent teeth,” she says. “I always thought I’d be playing the trumpet in a symphony orchestra—certainly not singing.”

But the trumpet didn’t stick, and she was studying dance in the early ‘90s. She was told she might have a good singing voice. She immediately balked at the idea.

“I was too afraid and too inhibited to sing.”

But she gave in. Local singing instructor Jon Fay said she had the voice to perform anything she wanted, even opera, which Gable dabbled in for a while. But it wasn’t her thing.

“My heart and soul were in jazz and blues,” she says. She went off to attend Stanford Jazz Workshop’s Vocal Program—a week-long intensive course for all singing levels. When she arrived, she didn’t know the words to any song.

“On the fourth day of the course, all students are required to do a song,” Gable says. Gable got up on stage and started. Before she knew it, the words weren’t coming to her anymore.

“In the middle of the song, I forgot the words,” she says. “So I started scatting—what else?”

While she didn’t remember the words, her impromptu scatting—a freeform jazz vocal styling—must have impressed someone. Eight years later, one of the musicians who was backing her at the Stanford program, Harvie Swartz, is backing her again—this time on her first CD, You Are Not Alone.

On the CD, Gable has some jazz heavyweights backing her vocals. Besides the acclaimed Swartz, there’s Akio Sasajima on guitar, Stefan Karlsson playing piano and Mark Walker (who’s performed on 10 Grammy-winning albums) on percussion.

Sasajima, who wrote the CD’s title track, was a driving force behind the album. Gable and he have been collaborating for a while, so doing an album just seemed natural. Sasajima even re-harmonized an old Japanese song, “Hamage No Uta,” which Gable sings in Japanese on the album.

“The best thing about Akio is he’s easy to work with,” Gable says. “Musically, we are similar when we play the music that we play. There’s a real art to accompanying a singer.”

Sasajima helped bring in the acclaimed artists that Gable has on her album.

“I’m really flattered to be with such great company," Gable says. "From the very beginning, the best musicians would work with me and that is something that can only help a new singer, to be surrounded by good musicians."