Marvin Cabell

Marvin L. Cabell

Nov. 29, 1938

Harrison Terrace


Saxophonist Marvin Cabell arrived in Indianapolis for a weekend of jamming with jazz greats at the Hub-Bub, a once popular spot on West 30th Street in Indianapolis. Shortly after that gig, he made Indianapolis his home.

MArvin Cabell playingAs a musician, writer and producer, he played with greats such as Earth Wind and Fire founder Maurice White and jazz and blues musicians George Benson, Roy Ayres, Grover Washington, Pharoah Sanders, Johnny Lytle, Lonnie Smith, John Patton, T-Bone Walker, Mighty Joe Young, Roland Kirk and the legendary Eddie Baccus, among others.

Some of his recordings include: “Accent on the Blues,” which he cut with John Patton; “Mama Wailer,” a popular hit recorded with Lonnie Smith; “People and Love,” recorded with Johnny Lytle; and “Dream Images,” a solo hit he recorded on the ILM label.

Mr. Cabell came from a family that loved music. His mother exposed him and his brothers to music at concerts. This hooked him, he said. He started his own band at age 10. His early influences were tenor saxophone greats Illinois Jacquet, Sonny Stit and Bird.

As a high school student, he was part of a singing group called the Naturals that performed at Evanston (Illinois) High School and for community events.  Mr. Cabell sang bass.  But he is acclaimed for playing the tenor saxophone, saxcello and lyricon.

His first big gig was with the Budweiser Band, a popular attraction at Chicago festivals. Mr. Cabell moved to other cities to live and work – Boston, New York, Washington D.C. Along his path, he married and had six children.

“His whole life has been on the road,” said his wife Bobbie. “He was never a musician that stayed in one spot.  If the work was in New York, he was there. He was in Cleveland before he moved here.”

Mr. Cabell operated an alcohol-free night club in Baltimore, Md., where he allowed guests to bring in their own liquid refreshments.  It was the kind of club where jazz greats dropped in with no notice to hold a jam session.

His club, The Full Moon, didn’t make much money, but it did allow a place for the Marvin Cabell Quintet to practice and perform regularly. The group included Mr. Cabell, Greg Bandy, Alan Baker, Billy Logan and Matt Elliott.

In an article that appeared in the Baltimore Sun in 1970, Mr. Cabell said his club had a purpose beyond simply providing entertainment.

“I wanted a comfortable spot where I could rehearse my band and get my music together,” he said. “I also wanted to have a spot where fellow musicians, who were really serious about what they’re doing, could rehearse and experiment with music.”

Mr. Cabell said many of the musicians who stopped in were not widely known, but were good musicians. “Maybe even better than the so-called big names,” he said.

The Sun article said Mr. Cabell favored a “reeds-on-top-of-percussion sound and his sets usually featured interesting interplays between his saxophone, conga drums, vibraphone and an assortment of percussion devices.”

Mr. Cabell has written numerous songs now waiting to be published.  The songs are owned by his Black Bottom Publishing Co.  Many of them are stuffed into an album his wife holds closely.

“He has songs that he’s started and never finished,” said his wife. “His whole world has been music.”