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Buddy Tate: The Texas Tenor

Chris Mosey By

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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 1953-1974 led the house band at New York's Celebrity Club.

Occasionally he would break off to tour Europe with other Basie alumni, most notably trumpeter Buck Clayton (who always introduced him as, "Buddy Tate from Sherman, Texas.").

These recordings are from two European gigs the year after Tate finished at the Celebrity Club, the first with Spanish pianist Tete Montoliu and a Danish pick-up band in Copenhagen, the second, recorded at Antibes on the French Riviera, with that perpetual veteran Doc Cheatham on trumpet,Vic Dickenson on trombone and an American rhythm section featuring Johnny Guarnieri (ex Benny Goodman and Artie Shaw on piano).

You always knew where you were with Buddy Tate. He played blues-based, no-nonsense, hard-swinging jazz of the kind you simply don't get anymore and had a nice way with ballads too.

It was a sad day for jazz when he died on February 10 2001. This double album, replete with a comprehensive biographical note by Scott Yanow, is a fine example of Tate's work in his later years. He was 62 when these tracks were recorded but swung like a man half that age.

The first CD—easily the most interesting of the two— opens with "Stompin' At The Savoy," harking back to Tate's dates with a Benny Goodman small group in the 1970s. Tate gets on surprisingly well with bop-influenced Montoliu and the Danish rhythm section cope manfully, though violinist Finn Ziegler is a trifle surplus to requirements.

There follows a marvellous version of "Body And Soul," a tribute by Tate to his mentor, Coleman Hawkins, with, perhaps, a sidelong glance at Benny Carter here and there.

On "Buddy's Blues," Tate even sings some rather obscene lyrics. Montoliu takes a particularly exciting and inventive break on a great, 17 minutes-plus take of Duke Ellington's "In A Mellotone."

The second album features Tate in a more typical swing, or mainstream setting, saluting his old boss, Count Basie, with two rollicking versions of "Jive at Five." There are also two takes of Gershwin's "Somebody Loves Me" and "Constantly," an original by Dickenson, with the ever-young Cheatham taking a vocal.

It's all good, solidly swinging stuff but—unlike the first album— marred just a little by predictability. Guarnieri plays well but lacks the flare and fire of Montoliu and Dickenson is sometimes a wee bit too tailgate for comfort.

All in all, a highly enjoyable chance to listen once more to one of the greats of the jazz Second Division: Buddy Tate, from Sherman, Texas.

Track Listing: CD1: Stompin’ At The Savoy; Body And Soul; Buddy’s Blues; Broadway; Just You, Just Me; In A Mellotone; I Surrender Dear. CD2: Jive At Five; There Goes My Heart; Somebody Loves Me; Sweethearts On Parade; I Got A Right To Sing The Blues; Constantly; I Never Knew; Somebody Loves Me (alt take); Jive At Five (alt take).

Personnel: CD 1: Buddy Tate: tenor saxophone: Tete Montoliu: piano; Finn Ziegler: violin; Bo Stief: bass; Sven-Erik Nørregaard: drums. CD 2: Buddy Tate: tenor saxophone; Doc Cheatham: trumpet; Vic Dickenson: trombone; Johnny Guarnieri: piano; George Duvivier: bass; Oliver Jackson: drums.

Title: The Texas Tenor | Year Released: 2014 | Record Label: Storyville Records


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