Bob's Jam at Yoshi's

by Stella Cheung Houston

On September 13, 2003, the general public, including myself, got a second chance to say good-bye to Robert Tate, managing editor of Jazz Now Magazine, and to enjoy a party on his behalf.


Bob's birthday party at the Jazz Now building in 1995

From left to right: Jim Radke, photographer, Sherry Hall, writer; Bob Hershon, writer; Stella (Brandt) Houston; Haybert Houston; Nina Hodgson; Al Wardlaw, trombone; Bob Tate (in stripe shirt); Mary Lucas, writer; Scotty Wright, singer/writer; Tup Lohse, writer; (unkown); Mrs. Wardlaw

Bob, as we knew him, was very special to us. He was dedicated and loyal. He had volunteered his time to edit Jazz Now since 1991, when we had the magazine in print form, until we published our last hard copy of the magazine in March of 2000. We were in bad editing shape in the beginning. Bob read the magazine and decided to help. With his significant other, Nina Hodgson, the articles were read at least six times each month. Then I formatted the magazine and they came to the office to read it again, making sure the articles continued where they ought to and that names in captions were spelled correctly. Then they gave a final read-through before it went to the printer.

Bob attended Reed College in Portland, Oregon, (you know, the Mensa college) and was in the navy for twenty-two years. When we met him, he was an editor for Presidio Press, a publishing company that published military novels, until he was laid off.

He volunteered for Jazz Now, and in 1995, he started volunteering for Yoshi's (the premier Jazz club in the Bay Area), transporting musicians to and from the airport, to hotels, and to Yoshi's. In 2000, he became the coordinator of transportation volunteers for Yoshi's. Just as he was for us, he was available anytime for Yoshi's and the musicians. He had to go to the airport at some ungodly hours at times, when nobody else would do the chore. Bob never complained. He was still doing his job, worrying about the musicians, when he had to go to the hospital. As soon as he was back and able, you'd see him around in Yoshi's, apparently just come back from another taxying job. Bob lost his battle to cancer on July 10. He was one of the most generous persons I know.

There were two things that Bob enjoyed most: books and Jazz. He loved bookstores, especially used bookstores. They attracted him like shoestores attract women. He always found bargains in those stores and came out smiling, "See what I found!" he'd say.

Bob talked Jazz unlike most Jazz cats. He could fill in sentences for Haybert, our publisher. "That sounded like..." "Sonny Stitt," he'd finish. Haybert and Bob had bets when they tried to identify sounds of certain musicians and couldn't agree. Bob mostly won. He was as much a book of Jazz history as Haybert, but you'd never know until you talked Jazz with him. Bob never bragged about what he knew. Few of Haybert's family and close friends know enough about Jazz history and events to have a good Jazz conversation, but Bob did. We would sit around and rap after editing the magazine. We went to shows and festivals together, and we had a great time.

So we had a great time once more, in Bob's honor, on September 13, 2003, at Yoshi's. The event was organized by Haybert Houston and Nina Hodgson and musically directed by Walter Savage. Each musician knew Bob personally and turned out to honor his memory. "All it took was a phone call or an e-mail," Nina says, "and they were there without hesitation."

The jam was led by Walter Savage on bass, Yancy Taylor on vibes, Myron Cohen on drums, Glenn Pearson on piano, and Craig Browning on organ (photo at left). They started up with a feisty "I Mean You" by Thelonious Monk, which lasted twenty minutes. Bobby Hutcherson then came on stage, cool-looking all in white on this very hot day, gave everybody a hug and handshake, and played "Cherokee," one of Bob's favorite tunes, with Harley White alternating with Walter on bass. Myron Cohen's imaginative and creative drumming kept an exciting piece exceptionally exciting. Bobby jumped in, literally, after Walter's long, bowed solo so as not to miss a beat, everyone having fun. Bobby filled the slow melody of "It's Magic" with rippling notes. When Harley took over the bass in the middle of the piece, he gave a different "oomph" to the performance.

Walter Savage  

 Bobby Hutcherson and Walter Savage 

 John Handy, Yancy Taylor and Walter Savage

 Mel Martin and Bobby Hutcherson

Then E.W. Wainwright took over the drums and offered his usual thunderous but tasteful support to Bobby and the group. Frank Jackson came on stage and sang "All the Things You Are" with added flute from Nika Rejto. Kevin Gibbs took over the piano, and then Yehudit added the violin. Kevin interjected his classical excerpts to his "Blow Top Blues" solo, giving the blues a different twist. Doug Arrington sang "All Blues" to follow. Jamie Davis and Clairdee then joined in with their vocals, adding to Anton Swartz's tenor, and Michael Handler jumped in soulfully with his harmonica. We haven't heard Michael for a long, long time. He has matured with his harmonica playing, and who is Jamie Davis? He has a voice like Johnny Hartman, and he even sang "My One and Only Love." Nika's flute was beautiful on "I Thought about You." I heard that she landed a gig at Yoshi's because of this performance!

 Clairdee and Anton Swartz

 Frank Jackson

 Kent French and Jamie Davies

Anton Swartz, Claridee, Jamie Davis, Harley White, Walter Savage, and Myron Cohen


Ken French took over the piano when John Handy played another rendition of "Cherokee." Richard Taylor took over the drums, Eric Swinderman came in with his guitar along with Brenda Boykin and her deep and sultry voice, Hal Stein came in with his tenor, Raymond "Nat" Turner did a verse of his poetry, and another harmonica player (unknown to me) also had a chance on stage. At one point, the group gave a rousing version of "Just a Closer Walk with Thee." Denise Perrier, vocalist, offered "God Bless the Child," and Walter Savage whistled on "Almost like Being in Love."

 Myron Cohen

 Nika Rejto

Glenn Pearson with Bob Tate's photo on wall 

Four hours we had that afternoon at Yoshi's, and most musicians only got to play a couple of tunes each. There were some who didn't get to play at all, like Larry Dunlap. He had to go to another gig and didn't get his turn. I am sure there were others.
 Raymond "Ned" Turner, and Eric Swinderman, guitar.

 Glenn Pearson, Mel Martin, Bobby Hutcherson, Harley White, and E. W. Wainwright.

Bob's family and nonmusicians friends were also in the audience. With people coming and going, the club was always three-quarters full all afternoon. It was a great party, the kind that Bob liked. I am sure he was listening, smiling, snapping his fingers, and enjoying the music right along with us, but his presence will be sorely missed.

by Stella Cheung Houston

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Copyright Jazz Now, October 2003 issue, all rights reserved