A superb jazz saxophonist, Greg Abate is an in-demand performer known for his dynamic, hard bop-influenced style.
Initially emerging in the '80s leading groups in New England, he established himself nationally issuing a handful of highly regarded albums in the '90s, including 1993's Straight Ahead and 1996's Bop Lives! Influenced by longtime associate Phil Woods, he has also worked with the jazz legend, collaborating on albums like 2012's The Greg Abate Quintet Featuring Phil Woods. A well-known presence in his native Rhode Island, where he was inducted into the state's Hall of Fame in 2016 and works as an adjunct professor of jazz studies at Rhode Island College, Abate tours regularly, appearing around the globe.
Born in 1947 in Fall River, Massachusetts, Abate grew up in Woonsocket, Rhode Island, where he first started playing clarinet in the fifth grade. After high school, he honed his skills studying at Boston's Berklee College of Music, where he graduated in 1972. He then spent two years touring as a member of Ray Charles' band before settling in Rhode Island. He began gigging around New England, and in 1978 he formed the band Channel One. They released a sole album, 1980's Without Boundaries, before breaking up. Also during this period, he played with Tony Giorgianni's Sax Odyssey, appeared often with Duke Bellair's Jazz Orchestra, and found work with the Artie Shaw Orchestra under the leadership of Dick Johnson. Along with gigs with Jerome Richardson and Red Rodney, Abate also began teaching at Rhode Island College, where he continues to work as an adjunct professor of jazz studies.
As a solo artist, Abate debuted with Bop City: Live at Birdland in 1991 on Candid. He followed up with a handful of well-regarded post-bop sessions for the label, including 1993's Straight Ahead and 1995's Dr. Jeckyll & Mr. Hyde. A year later, he issued Bop Lives!, which featured contributions by trumpeter Claudio Roditi, pianist Kenny Barron, bassist Rufus Reid, and drummer Ben Riley. And he rounded out the decade with the quintet date Happy Samba.
In 2002, he joined pianist James Williams, bassist Harvie Swartz, and drummer Billy Hart for Evolution. Two years later, he paired again with trumpeter Roditi for the Horace Silver homage Horace Is Here, which also featured pianist Hilton Ruiz (who died the following year), bassist Marshall Wood, and drummer Artie Cabral. The monster-themed Monsters in the Night appeared in 2006. In 2012, he paired with longtime mentor saxophonist Phil Woods for The Greg Abate Quintet Featuring Phil Woods on Posi-Tone Records. The quartet date Motif appeared in 2014, followed by the concert album Kindred Spirits: Live at Chan's, featuring Phil Woods and the Tim Ray Trio. In 2016, on the heels of his induction into the Rhode Island Hall of Fame, Abate issued Road to Forever with the Tim Ray Trio. ~ Matt Collar, Rovi