Today’s spotlighted artist was one of the many guys who seemed to operate slightly below the radar in terms of wide-spread fame, but were always respected by their contemporaries and appreciated by knowledgeable fans. During a career that began way back in the 1920s and lasted more than seven decades, saxophonist Buddy Tate found a lot of success while working with many of the biggest names in jazz.
George Holmes ‘Buddy’ Tate was still a very young teen when he began performing in his brother’s group in his home state of Texas. It was the ‘Roaring Twenties’ and a lot of opportunities existed for musicians, so Tate gained a lot of experience in the following years as he moved up to well-known bands like that of Andy Kirk. Along the way he switched from alto to tenor sax and then added to his versatility by learning clarinet, making him even more employable.
By the late 1930s Tate was an accomplished pro and a vital member of Count Basie’s renowned band, a spot he’d keep for the next decade before eventually moving on to work with other outfits. By then he’d also become a studio veteran, making some good records with Basie and others, including a bandmate, fellow Texas tenor saxman Illinois Jacquet.
In the early 1950s he began leading his own group in the spot that would become his home base for the next two decades, the Celebrity Club in Harlem. During that period Tate made a lot of solid records, often collaborating with some of the best around, and he also toured Europe to great success. After saying goodbye to the Celebrity Club in the 1970s, he subsequently worked with the likes of pianist Mary Lou Williams, trumpeter Roy Eldridge, and his old buddy Illinois Jacquet, with whom he continued to collaborate for many more years. He also appeared with him in a documentary in 1992, but even though Tate was still musically active at the time and would continue to work when he could, his health was beginning to deteriorate. He was 87 when he died in 2001.