Tuesday, December 9, 2014

Hard bopper Greg Abate and his high-energy jazz

Greg Abate
High-energy jazz doesn't describe the full feeling of listening to hard bop saxophonist Greg Abate in live performance because so much intensity and idea-making fuels his music. But it comes close. Even his approach to ballads and sambas have that lilt. They start out breezy or laid-back, but they are certain to have their burning moments.Count on it.

Such was the case on Monday, December 8, when the New England-based jazz man performed in the Charlotte County Jazz Society's concert series. He visits every two years for a Port Charlotte stop and a few other gigs in the area. And why not? It's a great way to escape harsher northern weather for a few days.

Matt Bokulic
Abate was joined on the gig by a stellar Florida rhythm section, with Matt Bokulic on piano, Richard Drexler on bass and Ian Goodman on drums. Abate hadn't worked with Bokulic in about 20 years, and had never performed with Goodman previously, but Drexler had been with Abate on previous visits. 

As is sometimes the case in jazz - and is always the goal - this band locked in on Abate's concept and performed with a cohesive chemistry that was very special.  

Richard Drexler
Alto sax was Abate's primary instrument for this concert, though he shifted to flute on two originals, a waltz called "Morning of the Leaves" from his newest CD Motif, and the minor blues "Contemplation." 

The evening's highlights were Abate's grooving interplay with the rhythmic section members at various points. He and Goodman locked in mightily on another original, the burner "Roger Over and Out." He and Bokulic had some wonderful solo conversations on "Contemplation," and the Abate-Drexler teasing back-and-forth intro to "Body and Soul" was delightful.

Ian Goodman
Most material came from the jazz canon, including Charlie Parker's "Yardbird Suite" and "Groovin' High," which Parker co-wrote with Dizzy Gillespie. Others included Benny Carter's "When Lights Are Low," Billy Strayhorn's elegaic "Blood Count," and "The End of a Love Affair."

Abate is one of the masters of seamlessly dropping in quotes from other tunes, as ideas pour through him - and out of his horn. He just does it faster than most other players and then moves on to something else. The original samba "Bittersweet" saw him work in snippets of Freddie Hubbard's "Sunflower" and The Beatles' "Eleanor Rigby." On the closer, "All the Things You Are," which Abate dedicated to the audience, came bits of "Lullaby of Birdland," "I Love You" and, in the spirit of the season, "Sleigh Ride." "Winter Wonderland" and "God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen" also popped into his ideas earlier in the evening.
Bokulic, Drexler, Abate, Goodman

No comments:

Post a Comment