Become a member and get exclusive access to articles, live sessions and more!
Start Your Free Trial

The Buddy Tate Quartet: Texas Tenor

JazzTimes may earn a small commission if you buy something using one of the retail links in our articles. JazzTimes does not accept money for any editorial recommendations. Read more about our policy here. Thanks for supporting JazzTimes.

“Texas tenor” usually calls to mind propulsive swing, a brawny tone and a blues-drenched toughness leavened by tenderness on ballads. This reissue, including two previously unreleased selections, displays these characteristics in abundance. Befitting a veteran reedman who spent the better part of 10 years with the Basie band (he joined in 1939, replacing Herschel Evans), Buddy Tate tempers his muscularity with simplicity. Even at his most ebullient, he crafts phrases with the sparse eloquence of a William Carlos Williams poem: “so much depends upon” every note, timbral shift and subtlety, every tongue-stop and vibrato, that overplaying isn’t just unnecessary, it would rob the music of its essence.

Tate, who died in 2001, was 65 for this 1978 session, and he was still in his musical prime: deep-toned and hearty but suffused with grace and gentleness. Pianist Wray Downes, bassist Dave Young and drummer Pete Magadini likewise avoid overkill; when they trade fours with Tate, it sounds more like a lively conversation among running buddies than a macho face-off. Of special note is Tate’s clarinet playing. Reedy and full-bodied, it encapsulates the classic approach to jazz balladry, invoking deep emotion by cultivating it in the listener rather than bludgeoning him or her with it.

Start Your Free Trial to Continue Reading

Become a JazzTimes member to explore our complete archive of interviews, profiles, columns, and reviews written by music's best journalists and critics.
Originally Published