Windmills Of My Mind
by Kristian St. Clair
when you speak the words "grady tate" to a jazz fan, the name immediately conjures the super-hip drummer of so many creed taylore verve sessions by everyone from lalo schifrin to jimmy smith to wes montgomery. now today one of the most sampled drummers around, grady tate still thinks of himself as a singer. "i always wanted to record as a singer, because i never thought of myself as a drummer," tate recalled recently.
active in the vibrant studio jazz scene since the fifties, grady tate became the drummer of choice for jazz arranger/composer and all around musical chameleon gary mcfarland when the two first met in the early sixties. in his addition to his recording activities for verve and impulse, mcfarland also had a lucrative career writing and recording commercial jingles. it was at one of these sessions that tate's recording career as a singer was born. "what happened, we were doing a jingle and gary was whistling it and he said 'grady, you're always humming songs, you want to hum this song?' i said 'yeah, i'd love to.' so i hummed on a jingle and he said, 'wow, you got a nice voice, man.' and he remembered that. so when (skye) came he gave me my first recording date as a singer."
that date was what became the 1968 lp 'windmills of my mind' and it was a stunner, produced by mcfarland for his fledgling label, skye records. mcfarland himself handled the arranging chores for side one, while arranging newcomer mike abene ably handled side two. among several great covers, tate and mcfarland's version of 'and i love her' is probably one of the best beatles covers ever. propelled by bernard purdie's soulful drumming and a career topping arrangement by mcfarland, it is a piece that continues to impress upon each listen.
remembering mcfarland's acumen in the studio, "another thing that amazed me about gary, after having become accustomed to everyone being very strict and orderly about their music, someone would ask gary, 'i have an a flat, it doesn't sound right, is that the right note?' and gary would [whistle the tune] and say 'that's your note.' i don't remember having heard him call out a single note over." grady tate sums it up best. "he was just loose, man."
grady tate recorded two more albums as a singer for skye and went on to ply his vocal abilities contributing to the ubiquitous 'school house rock' series of the 1970s as well as hundreds more recordings as drummer. however, to this day, 'windmills of my mind' is amongst the highpoints of a long and illustrious career.
"that was the most wonderful period that i think i'd ever had in my life...just doing that whole album."
kristian st. clair.
kristian st. clair has just completed 'this is gary mcfarland' a feature documentary about the life and work of the composer.
. Reproduced with permission.