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Buddy Tate From Texas State

Nic Jones By

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In some respects Tate was a Texas tenor sax player only by accident of birth
By the end of the 1930s both the Count Basie and Duke Ellington bands had established signature styles of music making that were in some respects antithetical. Whilst the latter was dependent on composition as an integral part of its musical output -and arguably no-one before or since has married composition and the making of jazz so successfully, the former had developed a kind of inner momentum from which its music flowed and which was shaped in no small part by the way in which the different sections of the band functioned and related to each other.

Such is the institution that the Basie band has become with the passing of the years that sidemen have always benefited from the association, and although Buddy Tate was no exception in this respect the longevity of his career in the music, working a seam of it as fertile in its way as any other, was fitting testament to his powers.

In some respects Tate was a Texas tenor saxophonist only by accident of birth. Besides which, any 'school' diverse enough to encompass both Tate and Booker Ervin is hardly marked deeply by unity of approach. This is perhaps equally true of the Basie band itself, which for all of its association with Kansas City still produced music in which Tate and Lester Young could find a comfortable home.

Tate's tenure with Basie ended in the late 1940s, and after brief stints with other names he formed his own band in 1953. This proved to be one of the shrewdest moves of his career as the band found regular employment in Harlem's Celebrity Club from the year of its formation to the early 1970s. Such was the generous nature of the arrangement the band had with the club that Tate could -and did- work outside of the gig without any loss of earnings from that source.

He made the most of the opportunity both in the USA and elsewhere. The Celebrity Club band was often recorded, not the least of these occasions being the Tate's Date album cut for the Swingville label in December of 1959, an album that, for all that it reveals of the band's affinity with the Basie approach also offers ample evidence of the mainstream sound; bop and any subsequent developments are ignored in favour of a particularly trenchant brand of swing.

Tate's arrangement with the Harlem establishment was instrumental in allowing him the freedom to work outside of the USA, and he took advantage of it to record a programme of Buck Clayton compositions in the company of Humphrey Lyttleton's band in London in July of 1974. Here the Kansas City spirit permeates proceedings and Tate excels in empathetic company, a situation that flourished with his peripatetic travels.

Clayton was a frequent front line partner of Tate's, and the Swingville label documented their music on albums such as Clayton's Buck & Buddy Blow The Blues , a title that should have scooped some kind of award for stating the blindingly obvious. Again the music conforms loosely to the Basie template, and the fact that it's so successful says a lot about its durability. Tate's clarinet as featured on "Blue Creek" is evidence enough of the fact that there was always a lot more to his music than hard blowing. This is equally evident on his performance of "Cry Me A River", again on clarinet, recorded in the exclusive company of Canadian musicians in June of 1981.

There always was a lot more to Buddy Tate than he was given credit for, and in one of those all too rare instances in jazz his economic situation allowed him the comparative luxury of exploring the full range of his musical personality in situations that were rarely less than conducive.

Selected Discography

Buddy & Claude
Prestige PRCD-24231-2
A two LPS on 1 CD package comprising Tate's Yes Indeed and Tate-A-Tate albums, both originally recorded for Swingville.

Buddy Tate with Humphrey Lyttleton & Ruby Braff
DA Music 874713-2
In a similar arrangement the two sessions collected here were originally on the Black Lion label.

Groovin' With Tate
Prestige PCD 24152-2
Again two titles on one. Originally the Swingville dates Tate's Date and Groovin' With Buddy Tate

The Ballad Artistry Of Buddy Tate
Sackville CD2-3034

Under Buck Clayton's leadership:

Buck Clayton & Buddy Tate

Buck & Buddy Blow The Blues


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