On his four recordings with the Tim Ray Trio, all on Whaling City Sound, Greg Abate finds himself on an endless quest for the true essence of jazz. Throughout this exploration, Abate, a massive talent, acquits himself as energetic, creative, and exhilarating
Which is why it’s such a treat to listen to his latest work with the Tim Ray Trio, Gratitude: Stage Door Live @ The Z. On stage, Abate is a force, a paragon of power and passion. Offstage, Abate is experienced, and a student of jazz. Live, he wrests control of the form, a force majeure, and proves that few in the jazz vernacular today can keep pace with him.
The album itself is a joy. With no formal rehearsals, and subsequently, no overdubs, mulligans, and re-do’s, the band captures its performance in truth, in full, and in the moment. With the seasoned support of Ray (piano), John Lockwood (bass) and Mark Walker (drums), Abate and his various horns (alto, tenor and baritone saxes, as well as flute) cruise through a slate of mainly originals, along with Joe Henderson’s “Inner Urge” and Roland Kirk’s “Serenade to a Cuckoo,” done here on tenor sax rather than the customary flute. “Dracula” spotlights Abate, Ray, and Walker, in that order, in a concise span of five minutes. In all, the performances are loose and fun without being casual. These guys are, after all, some of the best on the scene.
The intimacy of the venue also helped propel the session. The Zeiterion Theater is a stellar place and allows the band to stretch out. Ray’s version of Waller’s “Jitterbug Waltz” is a ten-minute blast, with rollicking passages interspersed with Lockwood and Walker each stepping into the spotlight.
Capturing the live energy is a difficult task, especially in jazz, where the frequencies are so varied. But the session, recorded and mixed by John Mailloux, is superb.
Abate is one of the hardest working men in jazz. Every year, when it seems like it might be time to slow it down, Abate revs it up, booking more shows, more clinics, and teaching more classes. He jet sets it when necessary, making repeated trips overseas to find his audiences. For now, he’s left us with the incendiary Gratitude: Stage Door Live @ The Z a postcard from the road, sent with the heat, beauty, and passion of genuine bebop.