Philly multi-instrumentalist Gabe Preston first caught our ear in an eclectic array of bands active on the independent music scene; their saxophone mixed into the funky hip-hop grooves of Mobbluz, they joined the New Orleans-flavored fanfare in roots combo Stella Ruze, they brought the party in the disco-soul powerhouse You Do You. Preston’s playing is nimble, and versatile, and during the pandemic lockdown a few years back, they began to explore their own creative ideas in compositions and recordings under the name GPS — Gabe Preston Sounds.
First came the dreamlike expanse of “萝 (Yumeni),” followed by the sleek instrumental groove of “I-76.” By the time last summer rolled around, Preston was ready to level up with [to the stratosphere], a vibrant half-hour long set that marks the first collection of songs where they acted as composer and band leader. The project probably fits easiest under the jazz fusion umbrella, but even there, Preston pushes boundaries — incorporating atmospheric keyboard tones, feeding their instruments through a chain of effects pedals for a psychedelic effect, bringing in local MC Josh “Eyeso” Donovan to bar down on a few tracks. This week in WXPN studios, GPS brought the album experience to life in a thrilling set.
Preston mixes up instruments based on the freeflowing mood of the songs: soprano sax on the buoyant openers “Tendinitis” and “Glass Door,” warm clarinet on the breathtaking meditation “Troposphere,” trilling flute on its pensive sibling “Stratosphere,” and robust tenor sax on the set-closing funk of “I-76” — which, like “Glass Door,” features a verse from Eyeso. The band is rounded out by keyboardist Anthony Passante-Contaldi, bassist Kyle Rowe, and two drummers: Stephanie Phillips and Ben Singer, working complimentary rhythms that are equal parts Fela and Grateful Dead.
Watch GPS’ full Key Studio Sessions performance below, explore Preston’s digital discography here, and see the band live at this weekend’s Cherry Blossom Festival in Fairmount Park West. More information can be found here.