Buddy Tate (1912-2001) was one of the great tenor saxophonists of the swing era. His playing drew on both of the great models of the day, combining elements of Lester Young’s understated, liquid economy with the robust, hard blowing attack of Coleman Hawkins. Tate had the big, mightily swinging sound of the “Texas tenor” school, exemplified by players like Illinois Jacquet and Arnett Cobb, but was equally adept at building an emotionally weighted solo out of the most minimal elaborations. 

He adhered to the dictum that a jazz solo should tell a story, and had no time for bravura displays of empty blowing. At the same time, he was ready to experiment across the whole range of his horn, pushing into areas of sound and timbre which would later be explored by more modern movements in jazz. Even in his most abandoned, flat out playing, his control of both the horn and the music remained total, and was always purposefully directed. 

He was born George Holmes Tate in Sherman, Texas (some reference books give his birth date as 1915), and began his professional career playing in “territory” bands which toured the southwest in the late 1920s, led by the likes of Terrence Holder and the better-known Andy Kirk. That was a common apprenticeship in the pre-war era, and brought him into contact with his most famous employer, Count Basie. At the time of their first association, Basie was still a relative unknown, and the band Tate joined in 1934 lasted only a short time. In 1939, however, the death of saxophonist Herschel Evans, a good friend of Tate’s, created an opportunity to renew the partnership. Tate later told writer Stanley Dance that he had an eerie premonition of the event: “I dreamed he had died,” Tate said, “and that Basie was going to call me. It happened within a week or two: I still have the telegram.”
Tate brought his own sound to the band, forming a partnership with Lester Young which was every bit the equal of the earlier Young-Evans team. He remained with Basie for almost ten years, and made his reputation as a powerful and inventive improviser. The post-war economic pressures which quickly eroded the big bands in the late-1940s saw Basie drop his group to a sextet, and Tate decided to leave and look for opportunities which would keep him closer to home in New York, rather than maintain the constant touring schedules which had been the lot of the big bands. 

He worked with band leader Lucky Millinder, trumpeter Hot Lips Page and ex-Basie singer Jimmy Rushing in the early 1950s, then secured a residency for his own band at The Celebrity Club, on 125th Street in Harlem. Tate held that residency at the club for 21 years, until his brand of hard swinging jazz was eventually ousted by the demand for rock acts in 1974. 

Tate made many recordings during those years, and occasionally went on the road with trumpeter Buck Clayton. When he left The Celebrity Club, he found himself in demand as a guest soloist in both the USA and on the burgeoning festival circuit in Europe, often in the company of another ex-Basie star, trombonist Al Grey. Tate always delivered good value, whether working with an all-star package or a local rhythm section. 

In the mid-1970s he co-led a band with saxophonist Paul Quinichette at New York’s West End Cafe, and led another group with drummer Bobby Rosengarden at the Rainbow Room. He worked with Benny Goodman, and continued to record regularly throughout the 1970s and 1980s, releasing albums on labels like Muse, Sackville, Concord Jazz and Reservoir. 

He was badly scalded in a hotel shower in 1981, but soon recovered. He worked with saxophonist Jim Galloway, pianist Jay McShann, vibraphonist Lionel Hampton, a band with Illinois Jacquet billed as The Texas Tenors, and the Statesman of Jazz, among others, and remained active well into the 1990s. 

His final appearance on disc came at the invitation of the rising saxophone star James Carter, who duetted with Tate on two tunes on his Conversin’ With The Elders CD in 1996, including a version of ‘Blue Creek’ which featured Tate on clarinet. 

The saxophonist had retired to Massapequa, in New York State, but recently moved to Phoenix, Arizona, to live with his daughter, Georgette. His other daughter, Josie, also survives him.

A duet : Jay McSHANN p, & Buddy TATE ts,

Recorded in Toronto, Canada in 1976 for Sackville Records

James Columbus McShann (1916-2006) was born in Muskogee, Oklahoma. He taught himself piano as a child, despite his parents' disapproval of his interest in music. His real education came from Earl Hines' late-night broadcasts from Chicago's Grand Terrace Ballroom. "When Fatha went off the air, I went to bed" he would later state. Jay McShann began his professional career in 1931, playing with Don Byas. He studied at the Tuskegee Institute, and performed around Arkansas and Oklahoma from 1935 to 1936. In late 1939, Jay had assembled a progressive band, which included Gus Johnson, Gene Ramey and Charlie Parker.
By 1940, Jay McShann had his own big band. The Jay McShann Orchestra toured extensively and recorded for the Decca label in 1941. The band's most popular recording was a Blues titled "Confessin' the Blues" but the band performed and recorded many modern compositions which bridged traditional Kansas City Jazz and Bebop. There were hits like "Hootie Blues" and the Blues classic "Ain’t Nobody's Business" debuting a young Blues singer named Jimmy Witherspoon. During this period, he recorded mostly for Aladdin and Mercury Records. Jay returned to Kansas City, where he raised his family, and played locally. During the 1950's, he attended music school at the University of Missouri, KC where he continued his music studies in arrangement and composition. Jay McShann was in obscurity for the next 2 decades, making few records and playing in Kansas City.
In 1969, Jay resumed touring, and has been performing and recording internationally every since. March 3, 1979 was declared 'Jay McShann Day' by the governor of Missouri, and he has received many other awards and honors. He was the subject of the documentary film Hootie Blues (1978), and was showcased in the film, "Last of the Blues Devils". He tours internationally constantly and records frequently. He has recorded through the years for Onyx, Decca, Capitol, Aladdin, Mercury, Black Lion, EmArcy, Vee Jay, Black & Blue, Master Jazz, Sackville, Sonet, Storyville, Atlantic, Swingtime, Music Masters and and most recently for Stony Plain Records. Affectionately know as "Hootie" he remains a vital pianist and an Blues vocalist who keeps a classic style alive. Jay McShann was inducted into the Blues Foundation's Hall of Fame in 1987 and received the Rhythm and Blues Foundation's Pioneer Award in 1996. Jay McShann is a Blues force of nature that keeps rolling on.

To be continued...

No comments: