Combining two rare Swingville sessions from the 60’ this disc is an excellent primer for those unfamiliar with the singular sounds of Buddy Tate. Tate served a lengthy tenure in Basie’s band and many other Kansas City collectives before branching out on his own and these sessions visit him in his later years still laying down a voluptuous and sultry swing. His tone on tenor has elements of many of his peers, most noticeably Coleman Hawkins without the bite, but still retains a lilting originality. Hopkins hails from D.C. and his roots in the swing lineage run equally deep.
The two men converge on the first session in the company of four other players and work over a highly inviting collection of standards. The emphasis is on maintaining a temperate mood and empathic rapport and the absence of individual bravado is refreshing. It’s also a joy to hear these veterans in their element, doing what they do best under the auspices of modern recording technology. As an added benefit, the technology also allows the players to stretch out past the time limits afforded the recordings of their earlier years. The majority of tunes are taken at a soothing speed and work well off the light interplay between rhythm section and the pairing of Tate and Berry. Berry mainly sticks to muted work on his brass, contributing gently smeared slurs to the ensemble sound on a regular basis. His protracted, but carefully conceived solo on “Empty Bed Blues” is infused with a tasteful discipline that is representative of the entire quintet. Over the course of most of the numbers Tate’s solos are usually short and sweet suggesting an admirable economy that many modern players would be advised to take lesson from. Hopkins works magic of the changes of each tune, particularly the bluesy reading of Ellington’s “It Don’t Mean a Thing.”
The second date presented here features a completely different group and lacks the effervescent presence of Hopkins. Fortunately his talents are traded in for the equally formidable Flanagan who in concert with Gales and Taylor gives the second half of this disc a decidedly bop-flavored bent. Tate acquaints himself well with the slightly different surroundings and digs into a program comprised of both standards and three pieces derived from Terry’s pen. The tongue-in-cheek piece titled “Buddy’s Tate-A-Tate” wastes no time in giving the saxophonist the chance to test his technique on brisker fare. Terry keeps pace alongside Tate and blows some velvety lines across Taylor’s rollicking drum breaks. On the slower tempo “Groun’ Hog” Terry turns to flugelhorn and the round sound of his larger brass works as an ideal foil for Flanagan’s polished ivories. A lengthy opening bass vamp by Gales sets the mood on “#20 Ladbroke Square” and deposits the players in another easy groove which they explore with the same enthusiastic verve as on the earlier numbers. A faithful run-down of Strayhorn’s “Take the ‘A’ Train” acts as an epilogue for a session imbued with no shortage of swinging grace. Tate and Hopkins are jazz originals and disc’s such as this work as windows into a time when they and their peers were at the top of their art, if not the charts.
Is It So/ Yes, Indeed/ What
Collective Buddy Tate- tenor saxophone; Claude Hopkins- piano; Emmett Barry-trumpet; Wendell Marshall- bass; Osie Johnson- drums. Clark Terry- trumpet, flugelhorn; Tommy Flanagan- piano; Larry Gales- bass; Art Taylor- drums.