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Bassist Frank Tate was born in Washington, D.C., on July 18, 1943. After receiving a B.A. in business administration, he worked as a professional trumpet player for several years. Along the way he switched from trumpet to bass, which he still plays today.
Tate has played with several well-known performers over the years. Zoot Sims, Wild Bill Davis, Al Cohn, Marian McPartland, Teddy Wilson, Pearl Bailey, Ray Bryant, Louis Bellson, Ruby Braff, and others.
Live In Belfast, Nagel-Heyer 2001
Tate’s woefully short discography belies his enormous talent. The Tate album I want to discuss tonight is the 2001 Nagel-Heyer release, “Live In Belfast.”
This wonderful album boasts an “A-list” group of musicians:
Frank Tate, bass
Harry Allen, tenor sax
Howard Alden, guitar
“Live In Belfast” was, as you might imagine, recorded live at the Guinness Spot, a beer hall on the campus of Queens University. As Tate himself remarks in the liner notes, “You gotta love the people at Guinness for putting a beer hall on the grounds itself!”
The guys had previously played together in Cork, Ireland, and London, so by the time of the recording session in Belfast, they were used to one another and ready for a great performance.
In the liner notes, Tate focuses on his fellow musicians and how thrilled he was to have them playing with him on that date; there is nothing by way of explanation of why these tunes were chosen. One can only speculate that he wanted to treat the audience to some great music that you don’t hear every day. Regardless of intent, that certainly was the result.
The opening song is a rousing rendition of “Four Brothers.” This song was a hit for Woody Herman in the 1940’s and was written by Jimmy Guiffre. It opens briskly with Allen’s tenor sax dominating. As the song progresses, everyone gets their time to shine, but this piece is very much Allen’s baby.
Up next is “On The Alamo,” from the pen of Isham Jones (“It Had To Be You”) and Gus Kahn (“Side By Side,” “Makin’ Whoopee”). This one too begins with Allen’s tenor sax, in a more mellow setting, and Alden’s beautiful fretwork on the guitar gets a nice response from the audience. Leader Allen, who has been mostly content to let his bandmates take the limelight throughout the evening, gets a nice solo toward the end of this one. As you might expect, it’s a delight.
Up next we have one of Sammy Cahn & James Van Heusen’s most beautiful ballads, the rarely-heard masterpiece “I’ll Only Miss Her When I Think Of Her.” This one opens with McKenna tinkling a few notes on the piano before Allen’s very subdued tenor sax comes in. The two make a very nice duet out of this one, an excellent change of pace from the two songs that preceded it. McKenna gives us a superb performance, and the blending of his piano and Allen’s sax charms the audience delightfully.
The pace quickens considerably when the guys jump into Neal Hefti’s “Fred.” Ever since I got this album I have wondered what motivation Hefti had for writing this song and naming it thusly. Whatever his motivation, “Fred” is a lively song that the guys handle with the same combination of skill and showmanship that they display on the rest of this album.
“Chinatown, My Chinatown” is up next. This was the single biggest hit produced by the songwriting duo of Jean Schwartz and William Jerome. (I know, I know. “Who?” Be nice.) By turns calm and borderline frenetic, this relic from a simpler era has everything the modern jazz geek needs to ease his way into Saturday night, and its charms were not lost on the live audience.
Next we’re treated to “Lady Be Good” from the songwriting brothers George and Ira Gershwin. (Trivia: Did you know that the song “Swanee,” immortalized by the great Al Jolson in 1920, was written by George Gershwin? I did not. But it was.) “Lady Be Good” is a lively song, befitting its origin in the 1924 musical of the same name.
I’m rapidly running out of time, so we’ll skip ahead to the final song, “O Grande Amor.” This song was written by Antonio Carlos Jobim, and Alden drew a round of applause from the audience a third of the way in for his work, backed by Allen and the others. The song makes for a bit more mellow of an ending than I’d prefer, but it does wrap things up.
You are going to have to really look to find a copy, but all-in-all, I believe you will find Frank Tate’s “Live In Belfast” well worth the effort! It will make a great addition to your personal playlist, for a Saturday or any other night!
The problem with featuring an obscure album from a musician who appears more obscure than I realized: There is practically nothing available online to embed here. No excerpts from this particular album, at least.
However! I did manage to scrounge up a video of Frank Tate live with Bucky Pizzarelli and Chuck Redd, recorded in April of last year. Here they are doing “These Foolish Things.” Enjoy! 🙂
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Copyright © 2013 by Al Evans. All rights reserved.


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