Alto saxophonist Greg Abate is a man who has built a career as a powerhouse reed man and a proponent of the mainstream bebop style, earning the nickname “the prince of bebop.” One of the kings of the genre, is unquestionably the legendary Phil Woods who blazed that trail before Abate and others followed. Captured live at Chan’s Jazz & Blues Music Club in Rhode Island, Kindred Spirits documents two royals of the alto saxophone joining forces for, what would become, one of the last recordings jazz icon Woods would ever make as he goes out in blistering boppish fashion.
Supporting the two leaders on this date, is pianist Tim Ray and his world-class trio of bassist John Lockwood and drummer Mark Walker, all combining to make for one of the most vibrant quintet’s in the business. On tap is an array of familiar standards arranged here to feature the two stars where the majority of the tracks range from between eight to eleven and a half minutes in length. This project is a two disc package containing a total of eighteen tracks of which five are recordings of Woods and Abate speaking before and after certain tunes.
The live set opens up with the long version of Charlie Parker’s “Steeplechase (Thriving on a Riff)” featuring the duo paired up on the beginning chorus and then taking inevitable solos as they lobby salvos at each other throughout setting the template for the evening. After some more swinging phrases on Harold Arlen’s “A Sleepin’ Bee,” where Woods takes the first solo, the alto voices tone it down just a bit on a beautiful rendition of Edward C. Redding’s classic “The End of a Love Affair” accompanied by some delicate piano keys from Ray and a marvelous bass line solo from Lockwood.
The two saxophonists perform on all tracks except on the Matt Dennis standard “Angel Eyes,” where Woods—who suffered from emphysema—takes a break and leaves the stage for Abate to do the honors and display his impressive chops on the instrument and he certainly does. On the jazz standard “Willow Weep For Me,” Abate takes to the soprano saxophone on the only time of the set with an expansive sizzling solo highly appreciated by audience applause while Woods engages in an emotional duet with bassist Lockwood in one of the most unique versions of this classic ever recorded.
Clearly one of the standout pieces of the disc where both masters are at their best, has to be on the Gene De Paul immortal “I’ll Remember April,” then there is the soft spot of the album “Moonlight in Vermont” and Horace Silver’s “Strollin'” all dynamite tracks. Pianist Ray’s trio performs “Speak Low” without the two leaders as the date closes on Parker’s highly-charged “Yardbird Suite.” Greg Abate and the late great Phil Woods deliver an outstanding swinging performance on Kindred Spirits capturing the sounds of bop as we’ll never hear again in a bold and brash statement for the ages.
Track Listing: CD 1: Steeplechase (Thriving on a Riff); A Sleepin’ Bee, The End of a Love Affair; Angel Eyes; Cedar’s Blues; Willow Weep For Me; Steeplechase (short version); Fried Clams With Bellies (spoken); Phil and Sequel (spoken); Emotionally Involved (spoken); Different Keys (spoken). CD 2: I’ll remember April: Moonlight in Vermont; Speak Low; Strollin’ Yardbird Suite; Moonlight in Vermont (short version); The First One’s Free (spoken)
Personnel: Greg Abate: alto saxophone, soprano saxophone; Phil Woods: alto saxophone; tim Ray: piano; John Lockwood: bass; Mark Walker: drums.
Year Released: 2016 | Record Label: Whaling City Sound | Style: Straight-ahead/Mainstream