I was unfamiliar with American reed player Buddy Tate until this recording crossed my path, and now I know what I’ve been missing. This archival release from Storyville presents a superb live set recorded in Denmark in September 1982. It’s subtitled “Groovin’ at the JASS Festival!” because it was recorded at a local restaurant during the Holstebro JASS Festival (which stands for Jutland’s Active Musicians’ Society), which at that point had been taking place annually since 1975, but looks like it’s been succeeded by the multi-city Jazz Nights festival.
Anyway, the way these things apparently happened, which is probably still common these days at jazz festivals, is that a billed player like Tate would be paired up with a more local act, they’d throw together a proposed setlist, and take the stage. That’s what we have here, with Tate and the Danish quintet taking the stage with no rehearsals for some spontaneous jazz. The best kind.
Buddy Tate was a prominent tenor saxophonist during the swing era. He joined Count Basie’s Orchestra in 1939 and stayed for 9 years until he moved to New York City, where he led a group from 1953-74 at the prestigious Celebrity Club in Harlem. He kept busy after that by playing and recording in various small groups.
White Label was a Danish quintet based in the city of Odense where they were regulars at a popular venue. They made three tours of the Soviet Union in the 1980s.
This date a short set of seven tunes in just under an hour. On the first half Tate is joined by just the rhythm section of pianist Ole Matthiessen, bassist Niels Præstholm and drummer Ove Rex. He leads off the first side with the hard bop standard “On Green Dolphin Street,” one of my favorite jazz compositions, and this is one sweet version, a great intro to the album. Then we get a real treat as Tate swaps his tenor for the clarinet, which he plays beautifully but which he apparently didn’t record with very much, on two Ellington classics, “In A Mellotone” and “Mood Indigo.” He opens the mid-tempo swing of “Mellotone” on tenor, then plays clarinet on the final chorus; but he goes clarinet all the way on the languid “Mood Indigo,” and the rhythm section is with him all the way. I mean, how can you not love “Mood Indigo”? And this one’s great.
Then it’s back to the tenor and up to tempo (and then some) on Basie’s “Jumpin’ At The Woodside,” most strongly associated with tenor player Lester Young. The Woodside Hotel in Harlem was the headquarters for many years of Basie’s big band, which was the swingingest of the big bands, and this tune fairly rocks. This rhythm section holds its own, too.
In the second half of the program they’re joined by the rest of White Label, Poul Valdemar Pedersen on trumpet and Jens Søndergaard on alto sax and they turn up the heat even more. The three horns kick it on a swinging version of Charlie Parker’s “Now’s The Time” and cool things down in tone but not intensity on Lester Young’s “Lester Leaps In,” both arrangements coming in at just around 10 minutes each. To wrap the night they have a bit of fun with some group vocals on Buddy’s ditty “Tate’s Delight (She’s Got It).”
What a great archival release to open the year – yet another demonstration that jazz is a universal musical language.