Musicians will sometimes honor another musician who influenced their lives or work with a tribute or memorial recording after that influential musician has passed on. There's an abundance of first-rate music on the double-disc Magic Dance: The Music of Kenny Barron
. But the best thing about it is that the leader, flutist and saxophonist Greg Abate
, convinced Kenny Barron
to fill its piano chair. "Kenny was kind enough to provide me with music for a range of his tunes, some more well-known than others," explains Abate, who first met the pianist in 1996. "The only difficult part was choosing which ones to record."
Abate enlisted bassist Dezron Douglas
and drummer Johnathan Blake
to provide the rhythms, and engaged Rudy Van Gelder
Studio for the recording. Abate's arrangements and dexterity on flute and alto, tenor, baritone, and soprano saxophones profoundly complement the majesty and gracefulness of Barron's compositions.
The results are consistently brilliant. On disc one, harmonized alto and tenor saxophones lend a classic be-bop luster to "Golden Lotus," tinged with blue notes from jazz and the Orient. Barron leans into Latin jazz underneath Abate's rollicking solos, which sometimes sound like Sonny Rollins
touring "St. Thomas," and pours plenty of power and soul into his own solo. "Water Lily" also pours out eastern colors and sounds, especially when Abate plays flute. "Water Lily" sweetly echoes Barron's work with multi-instrumentalist Yusef Lateef
on warm yet adventurous recordings such as Hush 'N' Thunder
(Atlantic, 1972), which Barron primarily composed. Disc one ends with "Bud Like," a brain-scrambling bop melody and evidently Barron's paean to piano legend Bud Powell
. The rhythm section shifts once more into Latin jazz for the first part of Barron's rolling solo, then the pianist dives in and joins them, building up a Horace Silver
-type of "Spanish tinge" in various shades of blue.
Disc two opens in the crosscurrents of "Lemuria," blown like a hot dry wind by Abate's harmonizing alto and tenor saxophones and anchored by powerhouse Barron, whose churning left and right hands convene like an army on the march. Blake's drumrolls serve as the runway for "Voyage" to soar into swinging ensemble jazz, with the pianist and rhythm section sounding so much larger than only three musicians behind the leader's hard-rocking multitracked horns. The closing "And Then Again" keeps this hot jazz burning, with Abate honoring the flame of Charlie Parker
's alto and Barron transforming his solo into a "Bud Like" furnace of dense, intense musical heat. It's cool hearing Abate duel with himself with overdubbed alto and baritone, while drummer Blake and bassist Douglas keep the tempo hot.
Greg Abate's tribute to pianist Kenny Barron, played with pianist Kenny Barron, is truly a magic dance.
Sunshower; Cook’s Bay; Golden Lotus; Innocence; Water Lilly; Sonya Braga; Bud Like; Lemuria; Concentric
Rain; Voyage; Magic Dance; Song For Abdullah; And Then Again.
Greg Abate: flute, tenor saxophone, baritone saxophone.