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Gabe Essien; OBITUARY.

THE little boy, who loved egg butties and made his sisters jealous when he patted sand into the biggest and brightest bucket on New Brighton shore, would later blow one of the sweetest clarinets in British jazz.

But the first sound to be remembered in his ears was the scream of German bombs and the rumble of crumbling masonry around his Liverpool home.

Gabe Essien was the son of Joe, an Efik (south Nigerian) sailor, and his Irish wife, Catherine. Joe was also a hot preacher man, who gave his son the Efik name of Eyamba, which became Gabe or Gaby somewhere along the line.

As a child, Gabe heard the Gospel, but his father was blinded during the Blitz.

The family, which also included his sisters, Kathleen, Doreen, Maureen and Michael, eventually settled in Bolton. Joe died when Gabe was only seven.

Catherine then married John Gaisey, a Ghanaian seaman and banjoist, with whom she had three more children. It was during this time that Gabe was introduced to music at the Merchant Navy Club in Moss Side, Manchester.

Even so, he was a diligent pupil, whose studies at Bolton County Grammar School led to him joining the RAF, before starting his career as an industrial chemist. The factory, where he was working, closed in the recession of the early '80s. By then, however, Essien was an established musician, having played with the San Jacinto Stampers, the Ged Hone Ragtime Band and the Salutation Stampers.

Visiting Americans greatly appreciated the accomplished but easy style of Essien, who for a while lived and played with the greats in New Orleans.

Surprisingly, he had not started playing seriously until 1961 when he bought a clarinet with pounds 20 won on the horses.

In 1997, Essien, profoundly proud of his African roots, played in a trio which gave him the opportunity to develop his virtuosity, freed to some extent from the restrictions of the New Orleans' tradition.

Five years later, he was recruited by the popular Savannah Jazz Band, based in Huddersfield, and played across the North.

In the jazz world, Essien, who lived in Bolton, was a revered figure, but he never allowed his own status to swell his head and was always willing to help young musicians.

He married twice and had seven children, including a son who died in infancy.

Gabe Essien, jazz clarinettist;

born 1935, died October 31, 2007.
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Title Annotation:Features
Publication:Daily Post (Liverpool, England)
Date:Nov 5, 2007
Words:401
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