Greg Abate, alto sax and flute.
Andrzej Baranek, piano.
José Canha, bass.
John Settle, drums.
Throughout its long history and across its countless styles, the wonder of jazz is best captured in live performance: revelling in the ability of gifted musicians to improvise—to create in the moment seemingly endless variations on melodies and their accompanying harmonies. In small group jazz, the sensitivity and responsiveness required is a marvel too, much though a history of group practice and performance will help to ensure the coherence of a tune even through the wildest solos. But this wonderful quartet had never played together before—and the fact that anyone watching would ever have detected it is a testament to all of them. It added an entire extra dimension to their playing. Both sets were so intensely musical and deeply pleasurable that it’s hard to imagine how they might have sounded with a history behind them.
John and José were remarkably well integrated into the driving, largely be-bop oriented numbers Greg introduced; and most of their soloing work was incorporated within each number, rather than as extended set-pieces. Andrzej’s command of the keyboard, both technical and stylistic, was a particular delight. On a few of his extended runs, it seemed as though he should have run out of keyboard before the end, such was his musical resourcefulness and fine technique. Neither John nor José were background to the proceedings—and their playing was of an order that many lesser musicians would reserve for their soloing.
Greg was on powerful form—power that was expressed lyrically, with wonderful Parkeresque articulation and fluency—including moments that truly sounded like runs within runs. He played flute on the two opening numbers of the second set, with the Promoter of Wakefield Jazz, Pete Rosser, sitting in on piano. ‘Summertime’ could have been written for the flute, with Greg giving the number its fullest, sweet but uplifting not-quite-a-lullaby expression. Then Pete entered with a powerful, oblique approach, delivering a splendid harmonic counterpart to the melody, without overwhelming it. The handover back to Greg was as sweet as it was delicate.
Greg, John, José and Andrzej then powered us through the remainder of the evening, in fine form and with evident pleasure, carrying the entire audience through every song and every solo. If you were in attendance, you’ll know: this was a gig to remember; if you weren’t you should have been there!