Greg Abate Quintet: Monsters in the Night (2006)

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Greg Abate Quintet: Monsters in the Night
Saxophonist Greg Abate is one of a host of talented players who are largely overlooked by the jazz media and thus remain unknown to many fans of the music because they have chosen to stay close to home rather than move to Chicago, Los Angeles or the Big Apple to enhance their stature. Abate, a professional for more than thirty years, was born in Massachusetts, lives in Providence, Rhode Island, and performs mainly in the New England area with an occasional side trip to New York City, the West Coast or Europe. Hence his relative anonymity.

That's the downside. On the other hand, compared to his home-grown paisanos on Monsters in the Night, Abate is almost a household name. I'd not heard of any but was impressed by all. Even though relatively obscure, these gentlemen can definitely play (as can their leader). Pianist Paul Nagle is especially engaging, while bassist Bill Miele and drummer Vinny Pagano go about their business with unruffled efficiency. The net result is a charming album of first-rate post bop jazz that breaks no new ground but earnestly upholds the tradition.

Abate may wish to be known as a "monster writer too, as he has penned nine original compositions, most of them dedicated to various fictional monsters, all of whom have been portrayed in Hollywood films. They include the usual suspects—Dracula, Frankenstein (and his bride), the Wolfman, Igor, and Dr. Jekyll/Mr. Hyde. The other themes embody allusions to the genre ("Monsters in the Night, "In the Woods at Night ) and even a Mel Brooks-inspired bow to the Glenn Miller orchestra via Count Dracula ("Transylvania 6-5000 ), which sounds nothing like the original ("Pennsylvania 6-5000"). The tunes, which range from bright to brooding, are entirely respectable but aside from the titles are decidedly un-"monstrous (even though Scott Yanow, planting tongue in cheek in the liner notes, writes that "one could describe the music as haunting and spirited ).

I'll leave that verdict that to others, but can say that it is quite well-played by Abate and his group of unsung colleagues. Abate, who is best known—when recognized at all—as an alto saxophonist, plays tenor on four tracks here, alto on three, flute on "Bride of Frankenstein and "Igor's Revenge. The muscular tenor invokes the spirit of Hank Mobley, Johnny Griffin and Jimmy Heath, among others, while the alto is harder to pin down—some Charlie Mariano, perhaps, and Charles McPherson, with traces of Jackie McLean, Bobby Watson, Frank Morgan, Kenny Garrett and the like. When it comes to sharing solo space Abate is quite generous, giving Nagel and nimble trombonist Artie Montanaro ample room to blow.

While there's nothing terrifying about Monsters, the music is uniformly terrific, even though its practitioners are several steps removed from prominence. The concept is clever, and Abate's quintet makes the most of it. Excellent sound and admirable playing time enhance a notably pleasurable session.

Track Listing: Dracula; Frankenstein; Monsters in the Night; Dr. Jekyll/Mr. Hyde/Bride of Frankenstein; In the Woods at Night; Translyvania 6-5000; Pentagram, the Wolfman; Igors Revenge (65:41).

Personnel: Greg Abate: composer, arranger, alto and tenor saxophone, flute; Artie Montanaro: trombone; Paul Nagel: piano; Bill Miele: bass; Vinny Pagano: drums.

Record Label: Koko Jazz Records

Style: Straight-ahead/Mainstream


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