Jazz legend Grady Tate plays Wilson Center

13 March 2012
Saturday, April 30, 2011
By Rick Nowlin, Pittsburgh Post-Gazette

If you happen to make it to the August Wilson Center for African American Culture tonight, you just may end up in a film. And it won’t be your run-of-the-mill jazz concert, either.

This filming will be for the documentary, “Grady Tate’s Windmills,” in honor of the veteran drummer and vocalist and the first installment of the nascent National Arts Treasure Initiative.

The goal of Tim Strong, a vocalist, executive director of the project and a musical disciple of Mr. Tate, is to [recognize] living legends. “I want them to be appreciated while they’re still on the planet.”

The concept was inspired by travels to other lands with his wife, a career diplomat, where Mr. Strong said that someone like Mr. Tate would be considered “a national treasure.”

The title of the documentary refers to the 79-year-old Mr. Tate’s definitive vocal rendition of “Windmills of Your Mind,” which earned him a Grammy nomination in the late 1960s.

Although Mr. Tate is not from this area, “his first professional job was at the Hurricane Lounge with organist Wild Bill Davis,” says Mr. Strong — an alumnus of Braddock High School.

Mr. Strong, who has spent much of his career overseas, met Mr. Tate in the mid-1980s in New York. After Mr. Tate heard Mr. Strong sing on a demo, Mr. Tate told him, “Don’t you ever stop doing what you’re doing.” Mr. Tate even produced Mr. Strong’s first acoustic jazz album, which was eponymous, in 1993, and they two have kept in touch since.

Tonight’s show also will feature, among others, New York-based pianist Sumi Tonooka; and local musicians saxophonist Kenny Blake and drummer Roger Humphries.

No timetable has been set for the documentary’s release. The initiative’s goal is to release two such biographies per year.

“My gift is to bring this home as well as treat him like the royalty that he is,” Mr. Strong says.

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