Greg Abate: The World Can Sleep Better
Now over lunch, asking Abate about the other part of his busy careerthe endless traveling, the disorientation of landing in a strange country and having to play with musicians he may never have even met beforehe sighs and nods his head. "The traveling is tough. A few months ago I flew into the UK from Boston, a seven- hour flight. I go through customs and baggage claim, then I hop a trainanother two or three hours on the rails. I get to this place where I'm playing, a club in some small town in the north of England. I take my horn out and count off the first tune. Not even a chance to get to know the other musicians' names. Next morning it's another 3-hour bus ride. I meet up with another new rhythm section at another new town.
"On my last gig, I did this kind of back-and-forth traveling for 23 days straight with just a very few days off along the way."
"Grueling? Oh yeah. Last summer I was playing in the UK and then had to fly to another gig in Italy. I flew from Heath Row to Rome and then had a four-hour car ride north to the gig. It was 110 degrees and no air conditioner. I played a three-day job in a small town north of Rome, then drove back down to the airport, flew back to England, worked a few more days there, then headed home to Rhode Island. My first day home, I had a class to teach at Rhode Island College. With the jet lag and the time change, I was pretty much baked."
How about local gigs? They must be easier than the international ones. He takes a sip of his ice tea and sighs. "Not really. A few days after I got back from my last tour in England, I had a one-nighter in Baltimore with Phil Woods, then the next three weekends I played dates with him in Cleveland and Philly. Then two days after that, I'm back in England again."
Just listening to him recount his schedule is tiring. When asked if he'd ever had any really bad travel experiences, he rolled his eyes and replied, "Oh, yeah. Like I got stranded in Moscow once. My visa had expired and there was this terrible snowstorm. There was a big language problem, but finally, after hours of trying to explain who I was and why I was there, I got them to send me to Paris."
When asked what his favorite cities were to play in, he answered, "New York, Chicago, and San Francisco. But there are great players and great venues all over the planet."
Does Abate have an agent who does all this booking or does he do it all himself? "I book mainly on my own and sometimes through a few different agents, and also people meet me at a gig and they'll book me for their venue."
Finishing up lunch, the next obvious question for Abate is, does he think he can continue playing at his best level, given the stress of living on the road like he does? He leans back in his chair and for the first time during the interview, Abate puts his hands behind his head and actually relaxes. "I'm happy and surprised and blessed to say that no matter where or when I put my horn to my lips and start playing, I go somewhere where I am always able to draw energy to play my best. To have this joy and inspiration that jazz gives me... it's worth all the effort, it really is."
Greg Abate, The Greg Abate Quintet Featuring Phil Woods (Posi-Tone, 2012)
Greg Abate, Horace is Here: A Tribute to Horace Solver (Rhombus, 2011)
Greg Abate, Monsters in the Night (Koko, 2006)
Greg Abate, Evolution (1201, 2002)
Greg Abate, Bop Lives! (1201, 1996)
Courtesy of Greg Abate