This week’s HERA’S Heroine is Virginia based multi-instrumentalist Gina Sobel. An accomplished vocalist, saxophonist and composer, Gina also plays the flute, piano, electric guitar and, rare as it may be, the electric bass. When she’s not enjoying the great outdoors backpacking, hiking or paddling, she finds the time to make handmade jewelry, which she sells on her Etsy site, Island Of Small Things. A talented woman indeed, worthy of this week's spotlight, Gina Sobel is by no means a traditional jazz musician; her music blends jazzy elements with funk and rock. A bandleader and collaborator, Gina is dedicated to creating great music.
Born into a jazz household in Annandale, Virginia, Gina Sobel took to music like taking her first breath. Her jazz guitarist father held regular sessions with his trio at their home. She would watch and listen, soaking in all the sounds. After learning to read charts at age twelve, she began to play along with her dad’s trio on her flute and was soon encouraged to improvise her own parts which opened a new avenue for Gina’s skill set.
Aside from being immersed in music at home, Gina played the flute in her school’s band then fell in love with the saxophone after she joined the marching band. While attending the second oldest college in the nation, William and Mary, Gina studied jazz but began to explore Chamber Folk and Southern Appalachian genres. As a college freshman, she picked the guitar and began to work on songwriting with her peers, playing in her first band, “Funky Farmers”, a group who met while volunteering at a local organic veggie farm. After college, she moved to Charlottesville, Virginia to pursue her art as a working musician, playing regularly and studying with flutist Matt Eakle and jazz guru John D’Earth.
In 2015 Gina experienced life on the road as she left the comforts of her Virginia roots to go on tour, playing, and exploring the United States and even overseas. She turned her experiences into the songs that made up her 2016 album “World’s Getting Loud”. Of course I had to ask where is her favorite place to perform and she shared a few from her travels. In Colorado, with its beautiful mountains, great vibe and cool people there is a small sandwich and beer bar in Fort Collins. Gina says she makes an effort to visit every year. “They’ve got a cool back patio stage and people tend to want to really listen to the music”, she says. Closer to home, Arlington Virginia made the cut with IOTA Club and Cafe and Galaxy Hut topping her list. She also mentioned Twins Jazz in DC being another great listening room. When she’s home in Charlottesville, The Whiskey Jar is currently her favorite spot to play. Though it has great energy, she offers one Pro tip: “Watch out for drunks who will try to put dollar bills into your sax bell.” About an hour away, in Richmond, she and her funk band Vagabond, a new club which she says is “dark and vibey, perfect for instrumental music and super hip listening space.”
Currently, Gina can be found playing as a one person ensemble, in which she delivers fingerstyle playing on her Stratocaster sharing a world of reverb and delay paired with vocal effects. A busy woman, she also performs in other Virginia and DC projects, like Choose Your Own Adventure, a live-composed funk collective sharing their love of funk, hip hop and R&B. Incognito is a high energy duo, shrouded in mystery, that is one part blues, one part Beatles. Gina Sobel and the Mighty Fine is her band of jazz all-stars turned rockers. Gina leads this funky band with her flute, sax and soaring vocals. Last but certainly not least, Gina performs with the Wytold Ensemble which creates original music by blending classical technique, progressive world rhythms, and jazz improvisation with contemporary song structures. These are just the latest projects, but Gina has been associated with nine other acts in her musical career.
What’s she listening to? Jazz by Bill Frisell, Kenny Garrett and Bill Evans, and not jazz played by jazz musicians Vulfpeck and The Bad Plus. Gina did not leave out a few fellow local musicians like Emerald Flame Trio, Lydia Ooghe, and swamp-pop Sally Rose. The list goes on. Gina has been surrounded by many talented musicians whom she feels incredibly lucky to call her friends. I dare say we are all lucky to have heard Gina in the music scene.
Check out Gina’s ten album releases which can be found at www.ginasobel.bandcamp.com