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.
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By: C. Michael Bailey
Serbian vocalist Alma Micic‘s 2014 Tonight (CTA Records) was a welcome addition to the jazz vocals discography because of its bold repertoire and compelling performance. Micic returns with a decidedly more focused and refined recording that mixes the new and old with her own original “Ne Zaboravi me” and Neil Young’s “Harvest Moon” with durable standbys, “That Old feeling” and “Blue Moon.” Micic is joined by guitarist and husband Rale Micic, bassist Corcoran Holt, drummer Jonathan Blake and vibraphonist Tom Beckham, the latter whose presence provides the recital a playful sepia patina. Both Micics and Beckham tear it up on “Moonglow” and then, “Cry Me a River” and “Honeysuckle Rose” in a triptych highlighting the first half of the 20th Century. Micic’s voice is red-wine complex with subtle notes of Eastern Europe. The best selection on the recording, easily, is “Estate” which the Micics perform as a duet. That Old Feeling is a fine follow-up to Tonight and precedes some doubtlessly fine.
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By: Jack Bowers
People who have an aversion to bugs (do you know any?) may hesitate to purchase (or even review) an album whose title epitomizes the very thing they abhor. But even though multi-instrumentalist Miles Donahue‘s new album does nod to that often-despised creature and even includes a song by that name, there is more to it than that; one might even say that Donahue removed the most of the “bugs” from the studio before he and his colleagues started recording.
One of the reasons that Donahue, who plays alto sax, trumpet and flugelhorn on The Bug, isn’t more widely known is that he chose to raise a family in his native New England rather than seek his fame and fortune in a wider arena, although he did spend time in Europe almost two decades ago before resuming a career in education with performance as a sideline. As this album marks his debut for Whaling City Sound, Donahue helped assure its merit by assembling a blue-ribbon supporting cast that includes guitarist Mike Stern, pianist Tim Ray and drummer Ralph Peterson. Going one step further, Donahue asked one of his college classmates if he would be able to make the gig, and Jerry Bergonzi said yes, he would.
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