Led by reed man, educator and Conn-Selmer clinician Greg Abate, The Greg Abate Quintet Featuring Phil Woods documents an electrifying set of bebop, straight-ahead and Latin styles featuring legendary alto saxophonist Phil Woods as its marquee player. The quintet burns through an exciting ten-piece repertoire of Abate originals complimented by contributions from both Woods and pianist John Patrick. Abate, like Woods, is known for his mastery of the alto, but on this date his superb talents on the baritone, soprano and flute are also on display.
There's plenty of fire on this project, starting with the brisk bebop groove of "Roger Over And Out," penned in 2010 for friend Roger Hal. The first of the five tracks highlighting Woods' alto magic, along with Abate's own alto excursion on this piece, makes for a superlative opening salvo. Pianist Jesse Green makes an impression on "Pear For The Bear," while the leader turns to soprano, laying down several wonderful solos. Those familiar with Sonny Rollins classic Tenor Madness (Prestige, 1956), where he teamed up with fellow tenor saxophone great John Coltrane, will appreciate the sounds of "Carmel By The Sea." By any standard of measurement, it qualifies as an incredible example of some alto madness from the two altoists.
All is not fire and brimstone, however. Composed by Patrick for his wife, the balladic "Marny" has a great deal of tenderness behind the music and is softly played by Abate on a burly baritone. The other light number of the set finds Abate wielding his soprano for another tribute, "Special K," for his partner and soul mate, Kerry Tracy. Written for daughter Jessica and sons Anthony and Gregory, "J.A.G." is a lively, straight-ahead jazz tribute featuring the leader on flute with Woods providing more stellar accompaniment, marking the last of the set's mid-tempo tunes.
The enchanting, post-bop "Contemplation" features Abate performing brilliantly on flute, accompanied by Green's deft right-hand play, as bassist Evan Gregor chimes in with a humble solo of his own. The two alto wizards join forces one last time on Woods' "Goodbye Mr. Pepper," leaving a lasting impression sure to be taken from even one sampling of this fine disc. For those who tend to favor good old-fashioned straight-ahead bebop with discernible melodies and rhythm, The Greg Abate Quintet Featuring Phil Woods fits the bill. With Abate and Woodstwo masters of the alto saxophonegoing toe to toe delivering one blazing shot after another, the music just can't get any better.
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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