Greg Abate – The Greg Abate Quintet featuring Phil Woods – Rhombus Records RHO 7112, 69:21 ****:
(Greg Abate, alto, soprano, baritone saxes and flute; Phil Woods, alto sax (tracks 1,3,4, 6, 9); Jesse Green, piano; Evan Gregor, bass; Bill Goodwin, drums)
Greg Abate is a saxophonist who has never really received his due. He has over ten recordings as a leader, and has mastered almost the complete range of saxophones plus flute, and has been on the scene since the early ’70s when he took over for David “Fathead” Newman with the Ray Charles Orchestra. He is based on the East Coast and often plays in Europe. Having the chance to play with one of his major influences, Phil Woods, elevates his newest CD to a higher level.
Greg wrote most all of the tracks on this CD, and Woods plays on five tunes. A special inclusion is Woods’ composition, “Goodbye Mr. Pepper” written to honor Art Pepper. The quintet plays a mixture of straight ahead, bop, and a bit of Latin. Kent Heckman recorded, mixed, and mastered the March 30-31, 2012 recording, and the acoustics are warm and mixed well as the rhythm section is given equal footing with the horns.
Phil and Greg blend well on the ensemble passages, while Abate shows his mastery of the three saxes plus flute, when Woods sits out. On “Pear for the Bear” Jesse Green is a nice foil on piano for Greg’s soprano while Goodwin (a longtime drummer for Woods) adds a Latin tinge.
“Carmel By the Sea” has a relaxing vibe honoring one of the West Coast’s premiere tourist attractions. “Marny” written by pianist John Patrick for his wife, is a lovely ballad with Abate’s bari sax setting a romantic mood.
“Goodbye Mr. Pepper” written for Art has its premiere recording here and Greg and Phil give Pepper his due in an heartfelt reading. The CD closes with “Realization (Living the Dash – )” composed by Abate on Sept 11, 2001, when the Twin Towers went down. Greg points out in the liner notes that the dash in the title signifies “our time on the Earth and how we will be remembered.”
The Abate/ Woods meeting is one that straight-ahead saxophone fans should attend to.
TrackList: Roger Over and Out, Pear for the Bear, Rocco’s Place, Carmel By the Sea, Marny, J.A.G, Special K, Contemplation, Goodbye Mr. Pepper, Realization (Living the Dash -)
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