Remembering Grady Tate

Grady Tate (1932 – 2017)

A tribute to a major drummer and singer

Grady Tate, who passed away on Oct. 8, 2017 at the age of 85, was a powerful, swinging and tasteful drummer who was also a warm ballad singer.

Born Jan. 14, 1932 in Durham, North Carolina, Tate learned drums early on, gained experience with local groups, and in 1959 made his recording debut with organist Wild Bill Davis.

Grady Tate found fame playing drums with Jimmy Smith and Wes Montgomery, and was constantly in demand for soul jazz and hard bop sessions.

In addition to being the drummer on Johnny Carson’s Tonight Show for six years, in rhe 1960s he recorded with such notables as Charlie Shavers, Dakota Staton, Billy Taylor, Johnny Hodges, Oliver Nelson, Lalo Schifrin, Cal Tjader, Lou Donaldson, Kenny Burrell, Stanley Turrentine, Gabor Szabo, Quincy Jones, Gary McFarland, Clark Terry, Ella Fitzgerald (including dates with Duke Ellington), Stan Getz, and even Louis Armstrong (“What A Wonderful World”).

Tate took his first vocals on his 1968 album Windmills Of Your Mind and would occasionally sing on his own sessions through the years.

There were later sessions with Dizzy Gillespie, Grant Green, Houston Person, Erroll Garner, Zoot Sims, Benny Goodman, Lionel Hampton, and accompanying many singers including Sarah Vaughan until Tate became semi-retired after 2007.

Here is Grady Tate playing “Night Train” in 1985 with the Ray Brown Trio featuring pianist Gene Harris.

Personnel:

Grady Tate, drums
Ray Brown, bass
Gene Harris, piano

– Scott Yanow