GREG ABATE / CRAIG MILVERTON QUARTET
Pianist Milverton is an activist, a maker and shaker in the jazz community who in the past organized a jazz festival and now sets up tours and travels far and wide to play. Explore is his label. Even more of note, he’s a resourceful player who can ignite a session and command attention.
He doesn’t seem to know how to play a dull set. His collaboration with tenorist Fowler and guitarist Ashworth is sub-titled The Music of Bebop Genius Tadd Dameron and takes a very agreeable look at fifteen of the late composer’s works. Of course, the familiar pieces like Good Bait, The Squirrel and Our Delight are here and are given their swinging due but the added pleasure is in hearing these distinctive players handle other less-heard Dameron compositions. And how rewarding they are. Fowler is truly our premier mainstream tenor man, with something of Scott Hamilton’s relaxed approach and warm sound, who always knows how to build and shape a solo. To the band’s credit, they don’t seek to replicate the classic versions of these key pieces, rather they set up a series of free-flowing quintet accounts of their own, bassist Al Swainger and drummer Nick Millward finding the right groove every time. Just to hear them push on Hot House or The Squirrel with Milverton flying is to understand why Digby Fairweather called this album ‘a treasury of excellence’ and he’s right. Anyway, any chance to hear Ashworth at length is not to be missed. Milverton and US altoist Greg Abate are often on tour together and I heard them yet again at this Swanage festival and damn good they were. Abate is bebop personified, his alto as passionate and fiery as ever: Parker is in there obviously as is Phil Woods, this given added point by the inclusion of Abate’s original Farewell Phil Woods (the album was made in 2015). His tone is warmer, more rounded and less bluesy than Cannonball, say, but there’s no doubting the verve and sheer class he exudes whether as a ballad player or a tear-up type. Abate records often: this collaboration with Milverton ranks high among his recent achievements.