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Buddy Tate

For more than seven decades, Texas-bred George "Buddy" Tate graced the American jazz scene with his hard-blowing tenor saxophone style. A resilient tone with high register inflections in the so-called "Texas tenor" sound distinguished Tate among his swing era colleagues. He was a member of the Count Basie Orchestra during the late 1930s and 1940s and later became a bandleader in his own right By most accounts, Tate was born George Holmes Tate on February 22, 1913, in Sherman, Texas. He began performing in 1925 while still in his teens when his brother handed him an instrument and asked him to play tenor saxophone with the family quartet called McCloud's Night Owls. Tate and the Night Owls learned to play largely by listening to recordings by Louis Armstrong and mimicking the sound. The band toured professionally for the next four years, after which Tate continued to play the horn, performing with a series of territory bands and with circus bands until the early 1930s when he toured the south-western United States with Nathan Towles' band. During those early years, Tate spent time with Terrence Holder's band from 1930-33 and toured with Andy Kirk's Clouds of Joy in 1934-35. In 1934 Tate filled in briefly with Count Basie's Orchestra as a replacement for Lester Young. Young eventually returned to the band, and Tate joined up with Towles for another four years beginning in 1935. Tate worked with Towles until 1939 when Herschel Evans, who was Basie's tenor saxophone player, died. Basie then brought Tate back into the orchestra as a permanent fixture for nearly a decade. Perhaps nowhere was the contention for attention between saxophone players of that era more pronounced than among Basie's sidemen. Among the notables were Illinois Jacquet also one of the so-called Texas tenors, Lucky Thompson, and Young, all of whom along with Tate transformed moments of the orchestra's performances into full-scale dueling sets between horns. Tate was heard on many recordings by the Basie orchestra during that era, including selected recordings where Tate performed on alto saxophone as well as tenor. He emerged from Basie's band as a seasoned professional. After Tate parted ways with Basie in 1949, Tate appeared with Hot Lips Page, Lucky Millinder, and Jimmy Rushing until 1952. He then assembled his own house band at Harlem's Celebrity Club in 1953, marking the start of a gig that lasted for 21 years, until the early 1970s.

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Album Review

Basie All Stars: Live At Fabrik Vol. 1

Read "Live At Fabrik Vol. 1" reviewed by Chris May

Such are the glories of his band's recorded legacy from the 1930s through the 1950s, that the mere mention of Count Basie's name will trigger a Pavlovian response from his fan base. Like no other, the Count Basie Orchestra epitomised big-band swing at its most sublime; reefer fuelled, riff based, loose and louche Kansas City jazz that is irresistible even in 2023, a life-affirming antidote to the barbarity of DL-only albums, generative music and social media. Seasoned ...

Album Review

Buddy Tate: Texas Tenor

Read "Texas Tenor" reviewed by Hrayr Attarian

Saxophonist George “Buddy" Tate came to prominence in the 1930s with his hard swinging style and robust and resilient tone. His sound mellowed and matured like a fine spirit throughout a long and busy career but his approach did not veer far from his original fashion of playing, dubbed Texas Tenor. The 1978 Sackville record is named just that, one of three Tate discs to bear this title.The label's rhythm trio joins Tate on an intimate set of ...

Album Review

Buddy Tate: The Texas Tenor

Read "The Texas Tenor" reviewed by Chris Mosey

When Herschel Evans died in 1939, Buddy Tate took his place in the Count Basie band. Basie used Tate's muscular, blues- based tenor as a foil to the lighter toned playing of Lester Young. Tate played with Basie for the next nine years fulfilling the same role with Young's successors, Don Byas, Illinois Jacquet, Lucky Thompson and Paul Gonsalves. He went on to play with Hot Lips Page, was in singer Jimmy Rushing's backing band, and from ...

Roads Less Travelled

Buddy Tate From Texas State

Read "Buddy Tate From Texas State" reviewed by Nic Jones

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 ...

Album Review

Buddy Tate: Tate Live

Read "Tate Live" reviewed by Jack Bowers

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 ...

Album Review

Buddy Tate & Claude Hopkins: Buddy & Claude

Read "Buddy & Claude" reviewed by Derek Taylor

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 ...

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Recordings: As Leader | As Sideperson

Live At Fabrik Vol. 1

Jazzline Classics


Texas Tenor



The Texas Tenor

Storyville Records


Sound Design 6

Bizarre Planet Entertainment


Swinging Scorpio

Bizarre Planet Entertainment



Louis Armstrong
trumpet and vocals
Ben Webster
saxophone, tenor
Coleman Hawkins
saxophone, tenor
Ike Quebec
saxophone, tenor
Gene Ammons
saxophone, tenor
Illinois Jacquet
saxophone, tenor
Don Byas
saxophone, tenor

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