A little bop, some Latin stylings and a lot of jumping, straight-ahead jazz and you've got the recipe for the newly released album from Greg Abate, The Greg Abate Quintet Featuring Phil Woods. Neither of these sax masters needs any introduction to jazz fans. Abate has been making a name for himself ever since the '70s when he joined the Ray Charles Orchestra as lead alto sax player. And Woods? Check out the list of bands he's worked with on his website and you'll see a veritable who's who of jazz giants. Put these guys together and you can't miss, and if you listen to the album you will understand why.
Besides Woods, who plays alto on five of the album's 10 tracks, the quintet sports a stellar rhythm section. Jesse Green plays piano, Evan Gregor is on bass, and Bill Goodwin handles drums. But while there are tracks where each gets to strut their stuff, the meat of the album is in the horns. When Abate and Woods play together, there is a real chemistry and some magical moments.
The album is made up of eight Abate compositions, one from Woods and a John Patrick ballad, "Marny," written for his wife. Woods' "Goodbye Mr. Pepper" is an atmospheric Latin homage from one alto sax great to another, the great Art Pepper. The album opens with Woods and Abate working together on a swinging tune called "Roger Over and Out." They come together at the end after some nice individual solo work for a sweet interchange of ideas. The solos from Green and Gregor are equally well done. Woods also plays on the bop-styled "Rocco's Place," "Carmel by the Sea," and "J.A.G." The letters, according to the liner notes, are the initials of the first names of Abate's three children (and nothing to do with the military).