Greg returns, unabated

    Back for his customary autumn tour the American saxophonist makes a 20-date jaunt around England through to 20 November

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    Greg Abate at Leeds in July 2017. Photo © Brian Payne

    Autumn’s here, which means the return to the UK of American saxophonist Greg Abate, whose enthusiasm and dedication to promoting the spirit of bop never seems to . . . well . . . abate. His latest whirlwind tour started on Wednesday (26 October) at Eastbourne, straight after he was collected from the plane by guitarist Nigel Price.

    With no opportunity for rehearsal, and just a brief discussion of the programme, the musicians took no time in getting into their stride, a reflection of their professionalism and ability. All were given opportunities to solo: Price’s statements were concise, inventive and vibrant; bassist Nigel Thomas was solid and supportive; drummer Spike Wells was imaginative, hard driving and swinging. All three provided momentum for Abate’s intense and committed alto and interacted with his eloquent and expressive flute.

    The material was a mixture of bop standards such as Yardbird Suite, Anthropology (with gig organiser Andy Panayi sitting in on soprano), Angel Eyes, Voyage (the attractive Kenny Barron tune featured on Abate’s album Magic Dance) and a smattering of Abate compositions, including Contemplation and JAG (based on When Lights Are Low).

    It’s a shame this quartet was only together for Abate’s first gig, but further musical associations are planned for his busy itinerary, with forays to the east (Brentwood, 1 November), into the West Country (Plymouth, 6), the Midlands (Kenilworth 7, Stratford 9, Leicester, 10) and the north (Sheffield, 16 and Wakefield, 18).

    There are over 20 gigs in all and details of the full tour can be found on Greg Abate’s website. The tour includes two lunchtime events – at Soho’s Spice of Life on Monday 31 October, with legendary pianist Jack Honeyborne, and at Ronnie Scott’s on 20 November, with fellow reedmen Alan Barnes and Jamie O’Donnell, the show entitled “Celebrating Phil Woods”.