Greg Abate : Happy Samba

Happy Samba - 4.16
On The Road - 5.26
Mambo Mio - 5.41
Remembering Dad - 6.05
Dr. Jekyll Mr Hyde - 3.50
Ode To Eric - 3.18
B'Niece - 6.51
Firewalk - 6.35
Jag - 4.48
Dom Joaquim Braga - 5.01
Art And The Bird Wonder - 5.15

Rhythm is the name of the game here—rhythm and that special sense of total involvement that marks all great jazz playing. There’s a happy inevitability about Happy Samba, Greg Abate’s newest CD. His fluid, driving alto style is a natural match for the sinuous Latin beat, and he glides effortlessly through the sambas, rhumbas and mambos that grace this set. This is familiar territory for Abate. He has often explored the Latin genre in a long and distinguished career that includes many recordings with stars such as Claudio Roditi, Red Rodney and Kenny Barron. Abate launched his performing career in the early 1980s, with a two-year stint touring with the Ray Charles Orchestra. He then replaced Eddie Lockjaw Davis in the revived Artie Shaw Band. Since 1987, he’s been out on his own, teaching and touring with a variety of small groups. This is his second outing, and he has surrounded himself with a group of like-minded artists whose resumes are equally impressive: Pianist Mark Soskin spent more than a dozen years with the great Sonny Rollins and has accompanied such luminaries as Joe Henderson, Herbie Mann, Stanley Turrentine and Randy Brecker. He lives and teaches in New York City. Harvie Swartz is one of the most respected bassists in the business—”a virtuoso of the bass,” in Abate’s words. Swartz has made more than 140 recordings and toured with the likes of Dexter Gordon, Art Taylor and Johnny Griffin. Wilson “Chembo” Corniel is the astonishing conga drummer on this set. Born in Manhattan of Puerto Rican parents, he has toured extensively with most of the top Latin bands and currently heads the Latin Society Jazz Ensemble in New York. Like Abate, Soskin and Swartz, drummer/percussionist Ed Uribe is a graduate of the Berklee College of Music, where he currently runs the school’s elecronic percussion curriculum. Uribe has worked with Donald Byrd, Paquito D’Rivera and George Coleman, among many others. “He’s the one who helped me define the Latin grooves on each tune,” says Abate. And what a session it is. The aptly named title cut gets things off to a delightful, upbeat start, and the complex rhythms bring out the humor and lyricism in Abate’s alto style. “On the Road,” by contrast, is a soulful, minor-key mambo in 6/8 time. Listen especially to the double-time interlude, in which Uribe and Corniel exchange riffs. Abate switches to soprano sax on “Mambo Mio” and again on “Firewalk,” a driving, relentless tour-de-force that showcases the virtuosity—and versatility—of all concerned. Abate also plays soprano on the “Dom Joaquim Braga,” a wonderfully singable tune in which every beautifully constructed solo leaves you wanting more. Happy Samba is full of such felicities—Abate’s sensitive flute work on “Ode to Eric,” his airing, diving alto on”Art and the Bird Wonder.” These guys clearly reveled in playing this music. The rest of us can share in the fun. Musicians: Greg Abate (saxophone) • Havie Swartz (bass) • Mark Soskin (piano) • Ed Uribe (drums, percussion) • Wilson ‘Chembo’ Corniel (congas) •Kenny Barron (piano) Song Listing: Happy Samba • On The Road • Mambo Mio • Remembering Dad • Dr. Jekyl Mr. Hyde • Ode To Eric • B’Niece • Firewalk • Jag • Dom Joaquim Braga •Art And The Bird Watcher

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