Gratitude: Stage Door LIVE@TheZ
Greg Abate (Whaling City Sound)
by Ken Dryden
There are many players who are so recognized for their work on one instrument that the public is often unaware that they play several more. Greg Abate has been primarily heard on alto saxophone throughout his career, but for this live recording, his fourth both for Whaling City Sound and with pianist Tim Ray’s trio with bassist John Lockwood and drummer Mark Walker, he decided also to feature himself on tenor and baritone saxophones and flute. The time that the musicians have spent together as a unit shows in the solid performances throughout this live set, most of which focuses on Abate’s potent originals.
Things start with his engaging bossa nova “Gratitude”, each member showcased in turn. When the leader is playing bop tunes, the influence of jazz master Phil Woods is present; though he is by no means a clone, it is his execution and wealth of ideas that invite comparison to the late alto saxophonist, whom he admired greatly. The feeling is especially present in “Bop Lives” and his heartfelt tribute “Farewell Phil Woods”, the latter written as a ballad but performed here at a strolling tempo. The jazz waltz “Hazy Moon” is the first of two songs spotlighting Abate’s considerable chops on flute, darting lines incorporating Eric Dolphy-like detours in spots. His sole appearance on baritone is on his rapid-fire “In The Stratosphere” where his gritty sound recalls Pepper Adams.
Rahsaan Roland Kirk’s “Serenade To A Cuckoo” featured the composer on flute on the original, but Abate opts for tenor to give it a gruffer texture. Fats Waller’s “Jitterbug Waltz” is a trio number and Ray’s Caribbean-flavored treatment in the introduction is a surprising, novel approach; this performance never loses steam in spite of stretching out over nine minutes. Back on tenor, Abate devours Joe Henderson’s hard-charging signature piece “Inner Urge”, tackling it at a brisk tempo. The excellent recording gives the listener a front-and-center seat for musicians having a ball on stage.