Tate says, "â€œThe music of jazz is extremely difficult. It is music that you have to study for many, many years in order to participate in it. It is very technical and you have to know a lot about chords, progression and all phases of music to understand and play jazz…"
(Tate, right…a major force in Jazz).
Grady Tate sat backstage at Dizzyâ€™s Club Coca-Cola on the fifth floor of Jazz at Lincoln Center located at Broadway and 60th Street in Manhattan, where he discussed his first appearance at Dizzyâ€™s as a singer.
He talked about his music, his tour, his artist development projects, and working with Jessye Norman in Vail, Colorado.
Diminutive in stature, Grady is known for his giant talent. This fact was corroborated by the applause Tate and his accompaniment Ray Gallon on piano; Paul West on bass; Montez Coleman on drums; Lance Murphy on tenor sax and Wilson Chembo Corneil on percussions received from the delighted audience when Grady sang many of their favorites, including one of his big hits, â€œWindmills of Your Mind.â€? Windmills netted Mr. Tate a Grammy nomination as Best Male Vocalist in 1969.
Known both as a drummer and singer, Grady Bernard Tate entered the world on January 14, 1932. He began singing at the age of 4 in his home state of Durham, North Carolina. A year later the boy prodigy taught himself how to play the drums.
â€œMost of the recordings I have done have been for my own pleasure. There was a time I didnâ€™t even know how many records I sold or how many hits I had. I had no idea who listened to my music or who enjoyed it. I was just pleased to sing and I enjoyed many of my recordings as I do now. I sit and listen to my music quite often,â€? the 74 year old performer stated. â€œI used to sing as a boy soprano until my voice changed. I was so upset when it changed I didnâ€™t sing for a long while after that. I resumed singing when I was in the service,â€? mused Tate. â€œInstead of fighting someone, or having to kill someone, I played the drums. I was in the Air Force Band. I went into the military as an entertainer and attended the Air Force Band School in Waco, Texas. I learned a lot from the Air Force Band School and spent a lot of time entertaining the troops. I really enjoyed the 4 years I spent in the military as a performerâ€? continued Mr. Tate.
A graduate of North Carolina Central University where he earned a degree in English Literature and Drama, Grady now works with youth and also teaches at Howard University. â€œThe music of jazz is extremely difficult. It is music that you have to study for many, many years in order to participate in it. It is very technical and you have to know a lot about chords, progression and all phases of music to understand and play jazz. To me, jazz and classical music are one and the same. They are both classics.â€? said the consummate performer who has participated in his art form for over 50 years. â€œI have performed with so many artists I would have to say I have done thousands of recordings with them,â€? recollected Tate. He has recorded and performed with such greats as: Quincy Jones, Jimmy Smith, Duke Ellington, Stan Getz, Ella Fitzgerald, Aretha Franklin, Grover Washington, Jr., Pearl Bailey, Peggy Lee, Lena Horne, Sarah Vaughn, and Andre Previn et al.
Grady also served as the resident drummer on the Tonight Show during the reign of Johnny Carson. Some may remember when he worked with Lena Horne as assistant conductor and drummer for her Broadway show â€œLena Horneâ€¦The Lady and Her Music.â€? He worked in the same capacity on the Broadway hit show â€œBlack and Blue.â€? Not to mention his second and third Grammy nominations for â€œMultiplication Rockâ€? in 1973 and for â€œSheâ€™s Out of My Lifeâ€? in 1987.
â€œIn traveling with and recording with artists over the years, I learned a great deal. I learned about singing from the singers. I learned tunes galore and I learned how to play music from almost every musician I have ever played with. Itâ€™s difficult to explain. However, I guess I can explain it by stating that â€˜â€¦I have just been a musician all my life.â€™ There was a time I wanted to be an actor and I attended the American Academy of Dramatic Arts. I actually did well there. However, there was a problem because of my size. During the time I was taking up acting, the only black actors getting roles were what I would describe, as the big strapping Black. Obviously, I donâ€™t fit that category. Diminutive black actors at that time could not get acting parts. It was different for whites. They control everything and had the money behind them. Many of these white actors could produce their own filmsâ€? said Tate tersely.
Presently touring, and planning on going to Spain in the near future, Grady also intends to spend some time in the studio recording a new CD which is due to come out on High Note Records. Having toured in Japan, Grady commented on the Japanese people and their appreciation of Jazz. â€œI have been going to Japan for 35 years. The Japanese people understand jazz the way American Black people understand jazz. In 1942, when Black soldiers were in Japan after Japan had been totally destroyed, the Japanese women and Black soldiers got together and had families. Their children grew up listening to American music, especially jazz because the black soldiers brought the music over there, so the Japanese developed a real love for the art form.â€?
Looking at his life to date, Grady commented: â€œThere are many things I could have done better, but I am quite satisfied with what I have done in my life and how I have done it. I have no qualms about the music that I have enjoyed because I have been a big part of it. I am proud of all the music I have done and my role in it as a performer.â€?
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