From the moment in 1983 when he heard Buddy Tate play with fellow “Texas tenors” Illinois Jacquet, Eddie “Lockjaw” Davis and Arnett Cobb at the Berlin Philharmonic, drummer Torsten Zwingenberger knew he wanted Tate to tour and possibly record with his band. After a number of setbacks, this lively concert date at the Quasimodo in Berlin was recorded nearly seventeen years ago, in April 1986, at the close of Zwingenberger’s second tour with Tate.
Buddy, who was then in his seventies (somewhere between seventy-two and seventy-six, depending on which bio one reads), plays with the energy and exuberance of a much younger man, spurred on perhaps by Zwingenberger’s empathetic Swingtet which included the (now) well-known vibraphonist, Hendrik Meurkens, bassist Dieter Gützkow and pianist Otto Weiss. Tate had been around the block more than a few times by then, having played for ten years with the Count Basie Orchestra as well as with Andy Kirk, Nat Towles and others before launching a successful freelance career, leading his own group for twenty-one years (1953-74) at Harlem’s Celebrity Club.
Although his roots are in the Swing Era, there’s a contemporary edge to Tate’s style that wears well even after the passage of so many years. He’s equal parts ardent bluesman / balladeer (“Shiny Stockings,” “Summertime”), JATP honker (“Tangerine,” “Jumpin’ at the Woodside”) and stout-hearted swinger (“Sweet Georgia Brown,” “She’s Got It”). Buddy doubles on flute on “Summertime” but his solo is faded because one of Zwingenberger’s two thirty-three-minute reels of tape ran out! Such are the perils of recording live.
The Swingtet is more than mere window dressing, and everyone is given ample opportunity to blow, especially on “Woodside,” with a number of persuasive solos by Meurkens setting the pace. Tate and Meurkens engage in good-natured vocal horseplay on Buddy’s rockin’ theme, “She’s Got It,“ which closes the curtain on a high-spirited and wholly pleasurable concert.
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