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A bebopper through and through

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Greg Abate got hooked on the 1950s hard-bop style that evolved from bebop, and he has made himself a career of bringing that intense sound to audiences across the U.S. and around the globe. Much like two other alto sax players with whom he has recorded, Richie Cole and the late Phil Woods, Abate developed into one of the genre's significant modern ambassadors.

He brought that sound to the Charlotte County Jazz Society's concert series in Port Charlotte FL on Monday, December 11, for a high-powered quartet performance. His Florida rhythm section included Richard Drexler on piano, Steve Gilmore on bass and Barry Smith on drums.

This was Rhode Island native Abate's fifth visit to Port Charlotte in nine concert seasons- and it was memorable for the way the band clicked throughout the night. Each player got significant solo space and made the most of it.

It was a night for Abate to dig deep into anthemic bop tunes, including Tadd Dameron's “Lady Bird," trumpeter Lee Morgan's “Ceora" and bebop co-founder Charlie Parker's classic “Yardbird Suite," as well as imprint bebop flourishes on other standards from the jazz canon. The latter tunes included “Star Eyes," “You Don't Know What Love Is," “I Remember April," “All The Things You Are" and Frank Foster's Basie band staple “Shiny Stockings."

He shifted to flute for the poignant waltz “Some Time Ago" and his original minor blues “Contemplation," which he recorded with Woods.in 2012. “Buddy's Rendezvous," written for a longtime friend, was Abate's other original tune shared at this concert.

Gilmore, who now lives in the Florida Panhandle, was Phil Woods' bassist for 40 years. He was a wonderful inclusion in this band. His sound is both robust and melodic- and his solos are filled with creative ideas. The society's concerts have featured many excellent bassists over the years. None have been better than Gilmore.

The band roared through versions of Sonny Stitt's “The Eternal Triangle," a splendid showcase for Smith's drumming, and “Yardbird Suite," which included terrific interplay as Abate and Drexler passed the melody back and forth several times.

The hard bop style is notable for its blistering, emotional cascades of notes- and for the soloists' seamless inclusion of familiar melodic lines from other tunes that fit the moment.

Bands featured at the society's December 2016 and 2015 concerts put jazz twists on holiday tunes as part of their programming. At this concert, Abate and Gilmore reversed that concept. They dropped brief melodic lines from holiday fare into at least five tunes over the course of the evening. For example, Gilmore quoted “Frosty the Snowman" and Abate followed with a snippet of “Sleigh Ride" in their solos on “Ceora." Gilmore dropped a bit of “God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen" into his solo on Abate's “Contemplation."

The concert drew about 230 attendees to the Cultural Center of Charlotte County's William H. Wakeman III Theater.

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This story appears courtesy of Ken Franckling's Jazz Notes.
Copyright © 2019. All rights reserved.

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