WEST KINGSTON–Jazz lovers are in for a real treat this weekend at Courthouse Center for the Arts as Greg Abate–one of the premiere be-bop saxophonists on the planet– takes the stage on Saturday night. Abate, who has toured internationally as a bandleader and as a sideman with the likes of Ray Charles and Artie Shaw, will be playing with Kent Hewitt on piano, Dave Zinno on bass and Gary Johnson on drums.
Timeout caught up with Abate this week during a break from touring and teaching–he is also music professor at Rhode Island College.
Q: Who would you list as your major musical influences?
A: Paul Desmond, Charlie Parker, Cannonball Adderley, Dexter Gordan,Phil Woods, Art Pepper, Wayne Shorter, Chick Corea, Dick Johnson, Freddie Hubbard , Lee Morgan etc many many more...
Q: What did you learn in your early career playing with Ray Charles?
A: Playing in the sax section was a pleasure and the learning was endless. Sitting near Ray in performance was awesome , feeling the vibe and passion from his every note. I was one of the youngest members of his band and I learned from the more experienced players and welcomed their help along the way. Also, I saw and played in most European Countries and Japan and all through America so I gor an education on life and how people are in different parts of the world. I also had to learn to play flute in the section so that was a big challenge.
Q: What do you listen to for inspiration?
A: Lots of Dave Brubeck and Paul Desmond in early high school years then at Berklee it started to grow to many of my other inspirational players as mentioned in previous answer.
Q: What does jazz mean to you? Has the definition of the genre changed over the years since you’ve been part of it?
A: I’ve played many styles of Jazz , straight ahead , Latin, Be Bop, modern and fusion and to me Jazz is a slang word to describe the evolution of the beginning or the African American Art Form from the beginning pre Rag Time to present with the artform being very vast and very complicated . Jazz is not easy to play well and it takes a long time to get pretty good with it and one always strives to improve no matter how proficient one is in playing jazz. Jazz is special, it is alive , it has passion and it swings.
Q: When you hear a jazz ensemble perform, do you tune in to the saxophone first?
A: Not necessarily, but I will gravitate to the saxophones as well as other instruments. I love the sound of all the instruments .
Q: When you perform, how aware are you of others in the ensemble? How much of an impact does their playing have on you on a given night?
A: Very very much aware and every group has their own impacts me differently.
Q: What is your take on the current state of the jazz music industry/business?
A: It is very difficult for the business part or it because the people that have the authority to book artists are not really knowledgeable in the music so there is a balance between the commodity and the music. The Jazz Industry is massive with many many venues world wide however.
Q: What does teaching mean to you personally and professionally?
A: Teaching is always special to me to communicate with and give knowledge to my students. I have been at RI College for 16 years as professor of Jazz Studies in an adjunct position and I have 4 jazz combos to work with, 6 applied jazz lessons , one independent study and a Jazz Theory course this semester. I have learned so much from teaching and I have become a much better Jazz player and composer for it. I am on the road a lot as well so the balance of it all is a juggling act if you will.
Q: What do you try to impart to your students?
A: I show by example. I do what I teach. I am an International Jazz Artist and Educator and besides that I try to instill the importance of serious practicing and listening to players and to get involved with their music .
Q: What can people expect to hear at the Courthouse Center for the Arts gig?
A: Usually, it is a swinging , passionate, with conviction Jazz Concert, performing Jazz Standards and Bop Standards and some original music in those genres.
Q: How can jazz fans learn more about your music and how can they purchase your CDs?
A:I will have several different ones with me but my website has a list of them and they could contact me via email there or just order through PAYPAL at firstname.lastname@example.org. Also, they are on line or on all the Internet services , Amazon, etc. Greg Abate performs Saturday, Oct. 1 at 8 p.m. at Courthouse Center for the Arts in West Kingston. Call 782-1018 or visit www.courthousearts.org.