We Belong Together – Sandra J. Kimmel, The Wednesday Journal
Late Start Can’t Disturb Rhythm for Jazz Singer
“I sing because I love to … and this love puts me in touch with the
best part of myself.”
“ I sing jazz because I love to … and this love keeps me connected to my African-American cultural heritage.”
Thus, we are introduced to Oak Park’s own Linda Tate and her first compact disc, We Belong Together. Listening to her sparkling voice on her recording and talking with Linda Tate about her career, it is clear she loves singing, and jazz is her muse.
Tate grew up with jazz all around her. The only child of older parents, she enjoyed their singing around the house and accompanying them on a wide variety of musical excursions. “Dad was a closet vocalist – he was always singing around the house and often would record himself. I would imitate him as he sang along with the record,” Tate says.
“Mom and Dad used to party to the big bands,” she continues. “Duke Ellington, Count Basie, Sarah Vaughn, Ella Fitzgerald. I grew up with all of them. I had a very musical childhood.”
In the 1960s, Tate performed as a folk singer, “along with everyone else,” she says, laughing. And although jazz was her real love, it was not until more than 20 years later that she got serious about her craft.
“I went to school (Chicago Musical College at Roosevelt University) to learn to write music,” Tate recalls. After majoring in composition and receiving her degree in 1974, Tate spent the next several years playing music for friends, studying pop and classical singing. Along the way, she worked full time, raised a son, refurbished a house and did “all those things we do in between,” she says. “But I really wanted to do more jazz singing.
“Not many people teach jazz singing. It’s something you just do, something you imitate,” Tate said. Finally, in the summer of 1990, she attended the Janice Borla Vocal Jazz Camp at Illinois Benedictine College. It was Janice Borla herself who gave Tate the push she needed to get her career moving.
“I was approaching my 40s and Janice simply told me I had better get going,” Tate said. “So I began practicing and developing my repertoire. I realized I had to develop relationships with musicians, develop material, and so on.”
From those relationships and repertoire came We Belong Together, a three-year project released last month on the Southport label out of Chicago. “I had developed a friendship with Joanie Pallatto, producer and co-owner of Sparrow Sound Design Recording Studio, who had worked with me earlier on my jingle demo tape,” Tate said. “Bradley Williams, another Oak Park native, helped with arranging the music and plays piano on several of the pieces on the disc. I feel very fortunate in lining up some very talented musicians.”
“While I wasn’t working on it every single day, in my mind I was,” she says. “It was a long-term commitment.”
That long-term commitment came to fruition a few weeks ago when Tate and Southport introduced We Belong Together to a crowd of more than 300 people at Schuba’s Tavern in Chicago. “I felt I was at my best – I was comfortable, and the audience seemed to be having a good time. So I consider it a smashing success!”
Tate’s release party, a late-afternoon/early-evening event, catered to families, because Tate feels young people don’t have enough opportunities to hear live jazz these days, the way she did all those years ago.
“Jazz is something that’s usually done late at night in a smoky room,” she says. “My dream is to bring jazz to children through performances in schools and concerts. Jazz needs to build a better audience – in recent years it’s taken a back seat to other musical styles. I want to bring it back to younger audiences.”
When she’s not recording or performing, Tate works as a jingle singer, voice-over actor and private jazz voice instructor. She wants to continue her recording career, but, she says, jazz isn’t something one does to get rich. “You do it because you love to. This recording is a marker in my career. This is me. This is who I am today.
“I like being able to reach out and communicate to people through music – that’s what it’s all about, communicating the love I feel for the music. And I get a lot of love back from all the people who appreciate my music.”