Tuesday, June 05, 2007

Prince of BeBop - Greg Abate

Greg Abate is one of the finest alto sax players on the Jazz scene today. With more than 10 albums as a leader, Greg began his career touring with Ray Charles and the Artie Shaw band. His music is deeply rooted in the Bebop tradition of Charlie Parker, Sonny Stitt and Cannonball Adderly, though he has his own unique modern voice. As a jazz educator, composer and performer, he has traveled the world spreading the joy and artistry of bebop jazz.

I first heard of Greg when he emailed me about a year ago and asked if my radio station had any of his CD's for airplay. They had about 4 of them, but not any of his recent work. He updated our library with 4 of his newer releases. I dug his playing from the start, and I play him constantly on my radio show. We emailed back and forth a few times. He invited me to a gig he was playing in Connecticut, and I went down to New London CT to see and hear him. When he walked into the jazz club, I could see he was upset and agitated. I walked over to him and introduced myself and asked what was wrong. He said the club owner couldn't pay him and he might just leave. I convinced him to stay and play, which he did, and blew the house down, although there were only about 10-20 patrons at the club. In between sets, he hung out with me and my wife. It was a great night. We continued an email correspondence since then.

Then a couple of weeks ago, I was emailed an invitation to his 60th birthday party at his home. Even though it was on a Saturday night, when I do my show, I couldn't resist the invite. I lined up a fill-in DJ for my show, and we drove to Rhode Island (about 1 1/2 hour drive) to Greg's home, a small modest condo. I expected that he was going to have all his musician friends there and they would be jammin' all night, but when we got there it was just some family members and a few friends. He was surprised we actually came, but said he was glad we did. At first it was awkward, but everyone was so friendly, they made us feel like family. He said he wasn't going to play, but a few of us kept bugging him to. At some point in the evening he called us all down to his basement and broke out his baritone sax, and jammed solo. I had my digital camera and snapped a few shots. Then he took out the tenor sax. I realized I had a movie feature to my camera and caught about 30 seconds as video. Then he pulled out the Alto and played an incredible improvisation on 'Round Midnight. I caught the whole thing as a movie clip on the camera. A little later his girlfriend, Kerry brought out the birthday cake. After that, Greg asked for his flute, and another great solo performance was captured on my digital camera. One of his friends suggested I put it up on YouTube. I've never uploaded video to YouTube before, but it seemed to be a great idea. I asked Greg's permission which he gave me, so I prepped the video files and uploaded them the next morning.

And that's the whole story of those video's taken at Greg Abate's house at his birthday party. Quite an experience! I think I captured how cool it was in those clips.