Sunday, May 27, 2012

Who is Greg Abate?

     It occurs to me that many people in our area, due to the lack of media coverage, may not know who some of the better jazz artists who perform locally on a regular basis.  In an attempt to rectify this shortcoming I'll be sending out newsletters from time to time featuring a different jazz performer.  Please note the flyers included in this message are recent events by Greg (not upcoming events) to enhance my story.

How long have I known Greg Abate?
     My memory is not what it once was but I'm fairly certain that I've known Greg just about as long as I've been advocating jazz in our area.  He is the man that I always contribute as having instilled in me an appreciation of hard bop jazz.  He is credited by many as a force that refuses to let hard driving bebop die, don't let that fool you, while he loves to play bebop, I've heard him play a ballad like Angle Eyes on flute so sweetly it will make your eyes water. 
     Mr. Abate is a bonafide international jazz star that comes through our area twice a year, spring and fall, like clockwork.  He is one of the hardest working musicians that I know who spends around 150 days a year touring the globe.  After finishing a four year program at Berklee College of Music back in the seventies, Greg played lead alto for the Ray Charles Orchestra for 2 years.   He played with the revived Artie Shaw Orchestra under leadership of Dick Johnson in the eighties and went on as a soloist playing Jazz Festivals, Jazz Societies and Jazz Clubs throughout the U.S. Canada and abroad, including most of Europe, UK, and Moscow and Georgia Russia.  He has recorded over twelve albums, one of which was nominated for a Grammy in four categories.
     Greg Abate is a jazz saxophonist, flutist, composer, an International Jazz/Recording artist, an adjunct professor of Jazz Studies at Rhode Island College and is also a very active jazz clinician with company sponsorship from the Conn -Selmer Instruments.  In addition to conducting workshops and master classes through the U.S and abroad.
     Usually when he visits our area he will stay with his long time friend, local drummer, Lee McKinney, who is a wizard of bringing small high quality jazz groups together.  In recent times the Dayton area, formation has been Greg on various saxophones and flute, Lee on drums, Randy Villars on keyboard and Phil Bowden on bass.  In Cincinnati, his last time through, he played with Phil DeGreg on piano, Art Gore on drums and Jim Anderson on bass.  I have never seen him perform with his own trio, quartet or quintet that he records with but I do seem to recall him having done so at Night Town in Cleveland Heights.  Of course the reason is money; it cost to bring your own group along.  Over the years I have come to appreciate his performing with our local backup players because I know they are every bit as good as anyone he would bring in.  I'm not unique, my wife and most of our friends always make it a point to catch his events and his audience continues to grow.  He's just too good to miss, he gets better every performance, and he has as the say has developed a unique voice.   
     I'm looking forward to next September.

Swing & Ballroom Dancers Take Note!

     Ronald Hartwell is one of the hardest working musicians I know, every Wednesday night his Lizz & Rex Review host a dance on the east side of Dayton near the corner of Woodman and Linden.  On the 1st, 2nd and 4th Wednesdays the Lizz & Rex Quartet provides the music. $5 in advance $7 at the door.  On the 3rd Wednesday of each month he has an 11 piece "Pocket Big Band" in to perform and on select 5th Wednesdays of the month he has an 18 piece Big Band performing. $10 in advance $12 at the door.

     Every Friday he conducts a jazz lab band work shop from 10:30 to Noon at the Earl Heck Community Center 201 N. Main Street in Englewood, Ohio.
     On the second Thursday of each month he presents the Retrospect Jazz Quartet at Jazz Central 2931 E. 3rd. Street doing Post-Modern Be-Bop and Neo-Classical swing along with Grant Koeller, Brad Mellen, and Elizabeth Lizi Hayes on vocals.

Jazz is dead?
     Who ever told you that lied!  Jazz is not only alive but is constantly growing and moving forward.  As proof to my statement, I offer, from personal observations.  My recent attendance at: Stivers School for the Arts fundraiser to go to the New York Jazz Festival.  The Beavercreek High School Weekend of Jazz Festival and tonight in Fairborn, Ohio; The Fairborn High School Jazz Band spring fundraiser concert.  All of these events were well attended and all the young players were outstanding and really into it.  I have to admit that as a commercial product jazz has its ups and downs but as an art form it continues at a remarkable pace.  Speaking of remarkable, tonight's performance at Fairborn's United Methodist Church was a packed house.  The way the High School Jazz Band and the Jazz Improvisation Ensemble played is a tribute to Mr. Gorretta, Mrs. Gorretta and Mr. Sparling!  In addition to pull of an event of the size and successful outcome is a tribute to the businesses and community who supported it. Well done!