It's Got That Swing
by Ruth Eckles
Even with the frantic pace of teaching and performing, internationally known jazz drummer and vocalist Grady Tate makes time to come back to his alma mater. This weekend, the North Carolina Central University alumnus returns for the annual NCCU Jazz Festival that bears his name. Along with Tate, the excellent bill includes newly settled Durhamite Branford Marsalis, locally based jazz diva Nnenna Freelon, singer Freddy Cole (brother of Nat) and Ira Wiggins with the NCCU Jazz Band. But at the spiritual and literal center of the festival is the world-renowned Tate. Nurturing students through workshops and one-on-one guidance sessions, gracing the community with his dynamic drumming and voice, Tate has been helping to create fertile ground in Durham for jazz talent for the past 40 years. For the past 13 years, his name has graced the title of the festival at NCCU.
Born and raised in Durham, North Carolina and playing drums by the time he was 5 years old, Tate claims that even as a toddler he had the timing of a clock. Tate is well known and highly respected within the jazz community. He's recorded and played with jazz greats such as Lena Horne, Ella Fitzgerald, Sarah Vaughn, George Benson, Wes Montgomery, Stanley Turner and many others. In his own words, he says, "I've recorded with everybody."
These days, Tate devotes most of his time to his real passion, which is singing. "The thing I love about singing is the direct communication because you're using language. You don't have to insinuate anything. You can tell people exactly how you feel, whatever the subject matter is. I choose to deal with love because the hate thing doesn't work for me."
Tate's latest vocal CD is titled, appropriately, All Love (released on a Japanese label, it isn't available yet in the United States). At age 70, Tate just keeps getting better at his craft. "My voice is better than it's ever been," he explains. "The control is there." Tate says that his singing "has become rather easy. I don't have to worry or think about it. I act on the moment according to how I feel and that's what determines how I sing and how I phrase. It's more fun than anything I've ever done in my life. And that's what I'm going to be doing at the Grady Tate Jazz Festival."
Read more here.