Grady Tate died on Sunday at his home in New York City. He was 85. His wife Vivian said that he had dementia. In demand for years as a drummer, he was encouraged by Peggy Lee to begin singing publicly and launched a new career as a vocalist. Tate’s professional debut was with the organist Wild Bill Davis in 1959. In the decades that followed, he worked with major jazz artists including Duke Ellington, Count Basie, Oliver Nelson, Ella Fitzgerald, Blossom Dearie, Lena Horne, Wes Montgomery, Stan Getz, J.J. Johnson, Zoot Sims and dozens of others. When he was in Ms. Lee’s rhythm section for a 1968 New York club engagement, she invited him to sing. Soon, he was loved as a singer by listeners around the world who may have known nothing of his prominence as a drummer.
Among Tate’s collaborations were those with the singer and songwriter Nancy Harrow. He was prominent in her albums Maya The Bee, The Marble Faun and Winter Dreams: The Life and Passions of F. Scott Fitzgerald. Here, he sings “My Lost City” from the Fitzgerald album.
Here’s Tate the drummer with Jimmy Smith, organ; Kenny Burrell, guitar; and Stanley Turrentine, tenor saxophone, playing Jay McShann’s classic “The Jumpin’ Blues.”
For a comprehensive article about Grady Tate, see his obituary by Richard Sandomir in today’s New York Times.