Abate to bring bebop back to the Hill

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By Kelly LeVan

He seems to like us and we definitely like him.

Greg Abate (pronounced “Ah-bot-tay”) has been to the Hill a number of times, drawing enthusiast jazz fans from all over the mesas. He returns at 7 p.m. Friday at the intersection of Central Avenue and Main Street, under the auspices of the Los Alamos County Summer Concert Series.

“He’s really excellent,” said Russ Gordon, producer of the show. “He’s from the school where you rear back and blow and every once in a while throw some pretty slice in there. He blows his heart out – like a rock’n’roller. He’ll go off on these bebop jazz riffs and into these gorgeous melodies. It really affects me.”

It’s not just Gordon, either. Abate affects a lot of people.

“Greg Abate is one of the most appealing saxophonists on the scene today,” said Jim Merod, New Jazz Recording. “He is mature with an abundance of gentle self-confidence. The result is that he plays music with sweetness and daring.”

The saxophonist, flutist and composer’s career first took off in the mid-1970s, after he graduated from Berklee College of Music in Boston, when he got a job playing lead alto for the Ray Charles Orchestra.

After a couple of years, Abate formed his own group, Channel One, and had the opportunity to play tenor sax with the Artie Shaw Orchestra under leadership of Dick Johnson before embarking on his solo career.

Jazz festivals, society and clubs throughout the United States, Canada, England, Russia and other European countries have recognized Abate’s unique talent, as have critics, who’ve described his sound as a “distillation of swing’s easygoing vibe” (Metro San José) and called him “an absolute powerhouse who will absolutely not let hard-driving bebop die” (W. Pickowitz Jr., The Jazz Messenger).

Maybe part of the appeal is Abate’s ability and willingness to play all forms of jazz.

“He plays lots of different styles of jazz,” Gordon said. “He mainly is a bebop player, but he plays sambas and mambas. I think he’ll have more of a Latin sound this week … so people can dance – wearing black dresses, with roses in their mouths.”

In addition to touring, teaching jazz studies at Rhode Island College and conducting master classes throughout the world, Abate has come out with more than a dozen albums, one of which, “Evolution” (2002) was nominated for a Grammy.

His latest release is titled “Monsters in the Night” (2005). For a complete discography and other information, visit www.gregabate.com.