TC musician debuts at music festival in New York City
By Kelsey Lauer 8/3/09
After more than 40 years of playing music at locales across the
Midwest, Traverse City musician Robert Abate has experience with just
about every type of gig.
I started playing guitar at the age of eight. I turned pro at 18, and Im
58 now, Abate says. I started playing guitar because in 1958 my parents
told me I was going to take music lessons, and I could pick anything
except the drums. I narrowed it down to the guitarbecause of Elvisor the
trumpet, and in the end the guitar won out.
But the professional guitarist/singer/composer will be exploring a new
venue, as the eight-piece Robert Abate Band will travel to New York City
to play some of his own works in The Charlie Parker Festival at A
Gathering of the Tribes Gallery on Aug. 15.
The plan is, were driving to New York on Thursday. Were rehearsing
during the day that Friday, and were playing in a New York club that
night, he says. On Saturday, were playing the show, and were going to
try to hustle up something for Sunday. On Monday, we load everything up
and drive in one fell swoop back to Traverse City.
Band members include Abate on guitar and vocals; his daughter Elatia on
vocals; Mike Hunter and Billy Gauthier of TC and Richard South of Dallas
on trombone; Mitchell Ronk of TC on bass trombone; Ahbay Santos of San
Diego on guitar; David Egeler of Elk Rapids on bass; Peter Murphy of TCas
the trap drummer; and a yet-to-be-hired percussionist.
MUSIC OLD & NEW
Its going to be jazz, Latin, rhythm and blues and funk styles, Abate
says. Were doing 12 tunes for the show. Ive written 10 of them.
Of the 10 tunes, two of them were written especially for the New York show
and have never been performed before.
As grandiose as it sounds, its going to be a world premiere. The (first)
tune is a funk tune. My wife heard it and said, That sounds like the
devils tune, he says.
I dont know about that, but its a powerful tune, he says, adding that
his song, Make Me Feel, starts out like a classical composition and ends
with a funk beat. Another song was written with Abates daughter Elatia
in mind, who will be singing with the band at the Charlie Parker Festival.
Those two (new) tunes that were going to be playing in New York, one I
wrote specifically for her to sing, he says. It was kind of funny; as I
was writing itI know her voice and all thatI could hear her singing it.
Without his daughters New York connections, there is no way that the gig
would have happened, according to Abate.
So, my daughter runs around in the art scene in New York; she has a
Brazilian recording studio a block from her house and she speaks
Portuguese and is in Europe and Brazil all the time. She knows those guys,
and they own a club in New York, he says. The farthest Ive ever played
from Detroit was Chicago, and in this trip, going to NY, its like a big
feather in my cap because it solidifies at least my own opinion of myself
being a national player, as opposed to being a local guy.
Abate hopes that some other connections might allow him to realize his
lifelong dream of playing on a European stage.
Even more importantly, she knows a group of Turkish people who own a club
in New York, but aside from that, they book music through Europe, Abate
says. I certainly am going to try (to meet with them); were going to try
to have them there to hear our show. And the funny thing about Americans
playing in Europe is that were much bigger over there than we are over
At the age of 15, Abate who was born in Kansas moved to Detroit with
his military family. It was here that he really learned how to play music.
Thats where I turned pro and thats where I really learned how to play,
he says. I quit college after my third year of college because I wasnt
really learning how to play, and I started studying with various people in
Detroit, like Howard Lucas and Marcus Belgrave.
Besides his work with the guitar, Abate has also branched out into
theatrical musical productions.
I had a musical theatrical production company going for eight years in
Detroit. It was called Jacara Production Company. I produced an original
ballet that I wrote the score for, he says. Ive written a musical that
got performed in Detroit. I have six CDs out; I write music all the time.
Ive studied music my whole life.
Abate also says that he feels the need to pass on all of the musical
skills that he has learned on to the next generation. Its something that
hes been successful at.
Before I came up here, I had my own guitar school downstate, and I wish I
could really have that up here. We had big shows with kids, with bass
players and amplifiers and PA systems and microphones, he says.
My kids all went to state for the battle of the bands; they made CDs. I
think I should teach music because it was passed on to me, and its kind
of my responsibility to pass it on to other people (and) just to have the
whole thing continue.
He has even had some students take on paid gigs at a surprisingly young age.
The summer before I moved up here, (I was working with some kids) who
were 13 years old, and they were playing some jobs in the Detroit area. It
was really a cool thing, because they would just feel so good.
Currently, Abate teaches guitar lessons at Marshall Music in Traverse
City, but he says that his success with students downstate hasnt
happened up here yet.
I tried at Marshall. I had three boys for a while who were rehearsing and
that kind of thing, but it fell apart because of the schedules of the
kids, he says. They dont have the commitment to music that I do. Maybe
it isnt even the kids; its the parents who want them in so many things.
(Music) takes a certain amount of commitment.
E-mail firstname.lastname@example.org for more information; visit www.youtube.com
and search for Robert Abate to hear various tunes from a live
performance at Poppycocks on Front Street in Traverse City recorded in