We Belong Together – Lucia Mauro, Oak Park Oak Leaves
The title of Linda Tate’s recently released debut CD for Southport Records, We Belong Together, captures all-compassing nature of her career and life goals. Jazz, arranged in its rich variety of forms on her eclectic CD, mirrors the Oak Park vocalist’s desire to celebrate diversity and create a sense of community.
Tate will perform a mix of contemporary, swing, holiday jazz charts from 8 to 10 p.m. Dec. 20 at Borders Book Store, 830 N. Michigan Ave., Chicago. Unusual instrumentation – including vibes, bass, tenor sax and flute – will highlight the multitalented singer’s smooth, note-caressing style.
“I’m a hopeless romantic,” said Tate over coffee at one of her favorite Oak Park artist’s hangouts, Some Things Brewing. “I like positive love songs, and sing what I love. I want to communicate the love I have for the music to my audience and hope that it inspires them.”
Born and raised on the south side of Chicago, Tate was turned-on to the ineffable joy of music by her parents, who used to take her to those big screen versions of Broadway musicals, like “South Pacific” and “The King and I.” At home they played all kinds of music, from love ballads and jazz classics, to swing tunes and waltzes. Her parents would dance to Duke Ellington, Gershwin and Cole Porter.
Tate recalled how, as a young girl of 10 or 11, she would belt out a few sets in the bathtub until the water got cold. Today she still sings – and develops her repertoire – in the bathtub and the shower. Only this time her 22-year-old son (and number one fan) Rael, is the one waiting not-so-patiently for his musical mom to move the impromptu rehearsal into her home studio.
Calling Oak Park “a lesson in diversity,” Tate – who has lived here almost 20 years – promotes “acceptance and tolerance” through her music. Her musical vision, which arises from her African-American heritage, runs the gamut of classic jazz masters and popular musical theater composers, to the sultry strains of Milton Nascimento and Chick Corea.
Her new CD includes mesmerizing, experimental arrangements. Noteworthy are those by Oak Park pianist Bradley Williams, who is featured on the swing standard, “I’m Beginning to See the Light,” and the dreamy ballad, “Lazy Afternoon.” Tate collaborated on Latin arrangements of Stevie Wonder’s “Ribbon in the Sky,” and Nascimento’s “Bridges,” with the guitar and percussion duo of Dave Onderdonk and Mark Walker. Tate, who is also a composer, wrote the lyrics to “Mystic Dreams,” an original piece with music by Sparrow.
“Music keeps me connected to my higher self,” the focused vocalist noted reflectively. “It’s a very profound experience, which puts me in touch with my spiritual or transcendent side. And I’m not necessarily talking about religion. It’s much deeper than that. I’m not a proponent of any organized religion. In fact, I’m not a proponent of anything that divides people. My music is about accepting each other with our differences.”
She is also concerned with exposing young people to jazz, and credits Southport Records (whose owners are also musicians) with conscientiously documenting vital, groundbreaking music. “Like me, Southport is interested in carrying on the tradition of a great, classic, universal kind of music,” she said.
Doing themed concerts is one way she hopes to reach young audiences. Her son’s love of jazz also helps her keep her work fresh for the younger generations. While Tate was performing recently at the Fairmont Hotel’s Metropole Room, a youthful crowd came eager to dance. Rael appreciated that his mom sang more upbeat tunes, which got most of the listeners on their feet. He commented that his mother appeared to be “floating above the music.”
Inside the Music
Jazz, Tate explained, is a complex musical form in which the artist “plays with time.” It involves “flowing inside the music” and “interweaving in and around the groove.” She added, “One of my instructors described it as ‘getting into the spin.’ Well, the beauty of it is you can bring the audience inside the spin with you.”
Fascinated with the idea of programming, Tate – who holds a bachelor’s degree in composition from the Chicago Musical College at Roosevelt University and a master’s degree in jazz studies/vocal performance from DePaul University – devotes a lot of time determining what songs work well together. She stressed that she tries to keep her act fresh by mixing up styles and tempos, and never placing two songs in the same key back-to-back.
Looking at least a decade younger than her 45 years, Tate believes that music has kept her young and healthy: “The vibrations you generate through music course through your whole body,” she elaborated. “It’s like a workout.”
The notion of singing as exercise is a driving force behind her work as a voice teacher. Preferring the term “personal trainer for the voice” to “teaching,” she concentrates on the whole body, creating vocal and physical exercises that help strengthen the vocal mechanism and relax the body. Her classes also center on proper posture, how to get different vocal colors, and microphone technique.
“I don’t allow self-deprecation in my studio,” asserted Tate. “My classes are about believing in and supporting yourself.”
Reviewing “We Belong Together” in The Boone County Journal, Doug Collier tapped into Tate’s soul: “Tate’s music lifts you and takes the listener through a journey of introspection, and one will be absorbed by her love for singing and jazz. Her smooth, tuneful voice nourishes the soul and leaves one with feelings of hope.”
His commentary illuminates the vocalist’s performance philosophy: “I was influenced by Ella Fitzgerald, Sarah Vaughn, Mel Torme and Nat King Cole,” she said. “They didn’t just sing songs. They were capable of weaving a spell.”