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Grady Tate On Piano Jazz

Grady Tate.
Courtesy of the artist
Grady Tate.

Grady Tate has been lucky enough to have two distinct careers in jazz. He made a name for himself as a session drummer with impeccable rhythm, for music legends such as Quincy Jones, Wes Montgomery, Ella Fitzgerald and Aretha Franklin.

These days, Tate is pursuing "a different groove," having stepped to the front of the stage as a singer. Though he started singing as a kid, before he began studying the drums, it wasn't until well into his drumming career, playing in Peggy Lee's band, that the jazz world first began to recognize his vocal talents. Tate talks about that tour when Lee found out she had a fine vocalist in her group and decided to bring him into her act.

Singing with pianist John di Martino in this Piano Jazz session, Tate shows off his rich, soulful baritone on the show opener, "My One and Only Love." His easy swing comes through on "Everybody Loves My Baby," and his innovative version of "I've Got the World on a String" is one of the show's highlights. Tate's performance of "Don't Misunderstand" conjures the spirit of the tune's composer, Gordon Parks, the famous photographer, writer and movie director Tate knew as friend and admired as an artist. It's hard to believe the composer of this tender song also directed the movie Shaft!

Tate ends the show with a couple of heartfelt ballads — "Where Do You Start," a Johnny Mandel tune with lyrics by the Bergmans, and a hopeful tune made famous by Donna Hathaway, "Sack Full of Dreams."

Grady Tate lives in Washington, D.C., and serves on the faculty at Howard University.

Originally recorded Jan. 7, 2009.

Copyright 2022 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

David Lyon