Jazz legend Tate returns to Pittsburgh roots

A pair of jazz legends are returning to their Pittsburgh roots.

Drummer and vocalist Grady Tate and internationally acclaimed jazz and blues vocalist Tim Strong will perform Windmills: The Grady Tate Concert on Saturday, April 30 at 8 p.m. at the August Wilson Center, along with New York pianist Sumi Tonooka, saxophonist Kenny Blake, drummer Roger Humph­ries and other distinguished local and national artists

Tate and Strong will also return to Pittsburgh Hill District for” Live at the Hurricane,” a private event at the Hill House’s newly renovated Elsie H. Hillman Auditorium on Thursday, April 28. Tate began his career at the legendary Hurricane Club as a drummer.


Both appearances will be filmed and incorporated into a full documentary honoring him not only as a drummer and vocalist, but as one of the greatest American musicians of the last century.

Harold Wheeler, conductor and musical arranger for “Dancing With The Stars” and “The Academy Awards,” will serve as Honorary Chairman for the week’s events.

A documentary, “Grady Tate’s Windmills,” will be the first in a more encompassing project called “the National Arts Treasure Initiative” which will produce additional documentaries honoring other American music and jazz and blues legends.

The aim of the National Arts Treasure Initiative is to inspire cultural patriotism for an art form that still lacks recognition and exposure.

“Jazz is America’s main indigenous music style,” said Strong, founder and visionary of the National Arts Treasure Initiative and executive producer of “Grady Tate’s Windmills.” “It has been revered and embraced the world over, where it is identified as truly American in its roots.”

Strong said that “Pittsburgh has a long jazz legacy” and describes the city as being “one of the most important jazz cities in the nation,” spawning the likes of Earl Garner, George Benson, Billy Eckstine, Stanley Turrentine, Art Blakey and others.

Returning to Pittsburgh, Strong looks forward to featuring his hometown in the launch of the “National Arts Treasure Initiative.”

“Our goal is to produce one to two documentary films per year on living jazz legends,” said Strong. “We want to celebrate them now rather than wait to honor them after they’re gone.

“A foundation is being established to take forward this vision as a contribution to the preservation of a truly American genre. And we want to start NATI with Grady using Pittsburgh as one of the featured backdrops for what will become “Grady Tate’s Windmills.”

Tate began his professional career in Pittsburgh, at the Hurricane Club, in the 1960’s. As a drummer, Tate has performed with hundreds of artists on more than 5,000 recordings and was the drummer of choice for musicians such as Duke Ellington, Count Basie, Herbie Mann, Peggy Lee, Barbra Streisand, and Miles Davis, earning him the reputation as one of the greatest jazz drummers of all time.

But it was as a vocalist that Tate gained special recognition, and putting him in a rare category, alongside the likes of Nat King Cole, of singers who have emerged from the ranks of musicians. This earned him Grammy Award nominations for Best Vocalist for the definitive version of “Windmills of Your Mind” and a captivating remake of Michael Jackson’s “She’s Out of My Life” with legendary jazz organist Jimmy Smith.

Born in Pittsburgh, Tim Strong initially performed professionally with the Benn E. Bennack big band, the Pittsburgh Civic Light Opera, and his own band, the Tim Strong Review. In 1976, Strong moved to New York City where he spent 17 years recording and performing alongside world renowned musicians including Tate, Wheeler, Herbie Mann, Joe Locke, Bob Braye, Michael Brecker, Sammie Figueroa, and Igor Butman.

With two traditional acoustic jazz CD recordings in New York and New Zealand, Strong has toured internationally performing in Russia, Australia, South Korea, Europe and New Zealand. Strong is also a veteran actor having performed leading roles Off Broadway, as well as touring shows of Europe, New Zealand, and Korea.

A strong narrative voice has allowed Strong to record a multitude of announcer voiceovers for commercials and symphonic and film narrations. Most recently, he was the narrator for the short film, “Ray of Light,” for the Ray Charles Foundation’s newly opened Ray Charles Memorial Museum.

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