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Album Review

Greg Abate: Magic Dance: The Music of Kenny Barron


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Greg Abate: Magic Dance: The Music of Kenny Barron
Magic Dance is an offering by multi instrumentalist Greg Abate, who is a proud keeper of the bebop flame. In the 75 plus years that bebop has been around, there have probably been hundreds of thousands of quartet records with sax, piano, bass and drums, a few of which have been contributed by Abate. But this one is a departure from his previous releases, and because it isn't the bare bones presentation that jazz fans are accustomed to, it may provoke some discomfort from the die hard admirers of Charlie Parker and Dizzy Gillespie.

This album is, in part, a tribute to the near legendary pianist Kenny Barron, who not only plays on it, but has furnished all fourteen songs as well. But what really distinguishes it from Abate's previous efforts is the tasteful and appealing overdubbing that Abate uses in his arrangements to embellish the Barron's melodies. Additionally, Abate, who is best known as an altoist (as evidenced by his recent fourth place showing in last year's Down Beat Jazz Poll for alto, shows that he is comfortable and compelling on flute, tenor, soprano and baritone as well.

The album begins with one of Barron's most engaging melodies, "Sunshower," which was a minor hit in the late 1970's when he played as a member of the Ron Carter Quartet's Piccolo (Milestone, 1977) album. It is a catchy and somewhat mournful melody, and Abate's tenor solo is brief, but shows respect for the sensitivity of Barron's tune. The second song, "Cook's Bay," which has brings to mind Ahmad Jamal's "Poinciana" with it's smooth, lithe rhythm and opens with an interesting merging of flute and alto—a combination that is strikingly original. Abate then proceeds to solo first on flute, and after Barron's solo, returns on alto.

"Golden Lotus" has a mysterioso feel, with an alto /tenor lead, which also provides some provocative voicings. Abate plays a muscular alto solo, matched by Barron, with Abate reprising with his tenor.

"Innocence" has the unusual combination of an alto, two tenors and a baritone leading up to an inspired soprano solo, while "Water Lily" introduces his flute playing, which perfectly captures the pastoral mood of the piece.

"Voyage" has a two tenor and two alto and one baritone lead, reminiscent of Supersax, with some boppish lines that are all over the place. "Lemuria," which kicks of the second of the two CDs, is perhaps the most exciting piece on the album. After an alto, tenor melody, Abate springs into action. Those who yearn for the Abate of the past will enjoy this. He is slashing and daring. Barron follows with a hard driving solo that bows a bit to McCoy Tyner before Abate returns on tenor, almost matching his earlier solo in the level of ferocity.

"Rain" is the prettiest tune on the album, with Barron showing some of his Bill Evans roots in stating the melody, with rich chords with his left hand and the gentle touch with his right. Abate is respectful of the tune on tenor, with some nice melodic passages in his solo.

The album closer, "And Then Again," has a familiar ring, with an alto-baritone head acting as a springboard for one of Abate's energetic foray on alto. Barron follows it up with an equally energetic piano solo. But this tune is most notable for Abate's only baritone solo, which is a screamer, and suggests that he could build his reputation on that big horn as he has on alto. And as if offering a comparison, he finishes out by trading fours with himself on the two instruments.

Dezron Douglas on bass and Johnathan Blake on drums play mostly a supportive role, although they do have a couple brief solos, but they provide a perfect backdrop to the superb soloing of these two bebop masters.

With Abate's reputation on the rise, this album offers a view of his diverse talents, both in arranging and playing a variety of instruments with more or less equal skill.

Track Listing

Sunshower; Cook’s Bay; Golden Lotus; Innocence; Water Lilly; Sonya Braga; Bud Like; Lemuria; Concentric Circles; Rain; Voyage; Magic Dance; Song For Abdullah; And Then Again.


Greg Abate: saxophone; Kenny Barron: piano; Dezron Douglas: bass; Johnathan Blake: drums.

Additional Instrumentation

Greg Abate: flute, tenor saxophone, baritone saxophone.

Album information

Title: Magic Dance: The Music of Kenny Barron | Year Released: 2021 | Record Label: Whaling City Sound

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