After a brief stay at Stanford University in the late 1960s, Abel was active on the New York rock scene during the 1970s and early 1980s, leading his own groups, producing the bands The Feelies and The Bongos, and playing on albums of Tom Verlaine and former Left Banke mastermind Michael Brown. He returned to California in 1983 and worked in mainstream journalism for two decades, eventually becoming foreign editor of the San Francisco Chronicle. He moved away from rock during that period, immersed himself in classical and gradually began developing his hybridized style.
Five CDs of Abel's music have appeared in recent years. The self-released Journey Long, Journey Far and Songs of Life, Love and Death attracted little notice. But The Dream Gallery, a 69-minute song cycle for seven soloists and chamber orchestra depicting the lives of imaginary archetypal Californians, caught the interest of pianist Carol Rosenberger, director of the Delos Productions label, leading to its recording by USC Thornton conductor Sharon Lavery and the La Brea Sinfonietta.
Delos’ release of Gallery in early 2012 began to bring Abel’s music to a wider audience. The record garnered considerable acclaim, with notices ranging from “profound and compelling” and “not much like anything else out there, … most highly recommended” to “anyone who is interested in modern vocal music will want to own this disc.”
In the fall of 2013, Abel's “The Benediction” appeared on Stopping By, the debut CD of New York tenor Kyle Bielfield. The song explores Abel's feelings about the uneasy state of socially divided America.
Abel's second recording for Delos, Terrain of the Heart, a collection of art song cycles for voice and piano, was released in February 2014. It features three recitalists from the Los Angeles classical scene — sopranos Jamie Chamberlin and Ariel Pisturino, and pianist Victoria Kirsch.
The record was praised as "art song at a high-water mark of invention" and for its "emotional directness and stylistic unpredictability." The Journal of Singing called "The Dark-Eyed Chameleon" cycle "captivating and important," adding that it "holds its own" with some of the most revered tragic cycles of Schubert, Schumann and Mahler.
In March 2016, Delos Productions released the double-CD package Home Is A Harbor — consisting of Abel's first opera (of the same name) and the song cycle "The Palm Trees are Restless," a setting of verses by Los Angeles poet Kate Gale sung by Grammy-winning soprano Hila Plitmann.
Gramophone (magazine) commented “Abel employs a colorful blend of styles … (that) serve the emotional nature of each work to bracing and poignant effect. Abel’s lucid narrative and vibrant vocal lines, combined with telling orchestrations for a chamber ensemble, make (“Harbor”) an affecting experience. The brilliant soprano Hila Plitmann manages every leap and switch of emotional gears (in “Palm Trees”) with fearless commitment, and pianist Tali Tadmor matches her in power and subtlety.”
Richard Sininger of American Record Guide wrote that the recording showed Abel to be “at the forefront of (California's) musical life.”
While “Home Is a Harbor” awaits a staged production, Plitmann and Tadmor gave the world premiere of “The Palm Trees Are Restless” on Oct. 1, 2016, in Pasadena, Ca.Global Music Awards - "Award of Excellence" for the lyrics in The Dream Gallery
Global Music Awards - "Award of Merit" for "creativity/originality"
Home Is A Harbor (2016)
Terrain of the Heart (2014)
The Dream Gallery (2012)
Journey Long, Journey Far (2008)
Songs of Life, Love and Death (2006)