Rod Tate is a smooth jazz artist who is undeniably a mellow fellow. His website states his musical mission thusly: "Music intended to Soothe your soul and speak Love to your Spirit." His current release surely satisfies his stated mission. It’s entitled Heart & Soul and Tate has written 12 polished compositions that are elegant, calming and as soothing to the spirit as velvet is to the touch.
On the CD, Rod Tate demonstrates his mastery on alto, soprano and tenor saxophones as well as skill on keyboards and drum programming. Of course, there is a significant downside of entirely using programmed beats, the loss of some of the improvisation associated with the jazz genre. However, his copious talent for composition makes up for this minor criticism. He clearly knows how to write romantic melodies and plays his instruments with a style that oozes peace and tranquility.
Heart & Soul begins with the funky "Red Beans & Rice," a soulful and tasty treat with every note ringing with bounce and playfulness. "Heart Felt" is a great title for the second song. Containing a bit of funk, it’s upbeat and reveals a heart overflowing with happiness and love. The song contains a memorable melody that just makes you feel good. "The Secret Place" and "Cool Breeze" are both dreamy and just simply beautiful tunes, marvelously sequenced back to back. Set to an easy waltz tempo, "The Secret Place" pleases the senses with its lovely flow. And, as its title implies, "Cool Breeze" refreshes with a sultry blend of sax and keys that’s mesmerizing and hard to resist.
The title cut features Rod’s keyboards as accompaniment to his quiet storm sax. "Heart & Soul" has a charming melody with an easy going groove. This entire CD, and the title cut in particular, sound like the perfect background music to be playing while you’re setting by the fireside with the one you love. On "The Road To Glory," Tate inserts a morsel of a Latin beat for a change of pace, but his playing is still smooth as silk as he tenderly caresses each note. The song picks up speed as it progresses, but always remains silky. Its melody hearkens back to some jazz classics, showing a semblance to Duke Ellington.
"I’ve Got To Tell" is soulful and upbeat, gliding along with a sleek and funky Stevie Wonder groove. I can envision Wonder adding heavenly vocals, along with some of his trademark harmonica in a duel with Rod’s expressive sax, to make this one a crossover pop hit. But, it’s already mighty fine just as is. Set to a tango rhythm, "Hope For The Heart" contains some of Rod’s most intense sax, and offers up tempo variation. "Posted (for Rod Tate II)" contains yet another delightful well-crafted creamy melody. The keyboards mimic a Hammond B-3 organ sound to good advantage, working in accord with Tate’s emotive sax.
"Now Faith" adheres to the soft mold of many of the tunes written for Heart & Soul. It’s chic and classy, harmonically rich, and soothing as one’s favorite easy chair. Next is "Soul Connection," which also fits the same gentle pattern of contemplative and tender music that connects with the listener. The CD closes with "Surreal," a song with relaxed new age ambiance. This ethereal, floating, mellow vibe is completed with airy synthetic seagull calls.
Rod Tate has independently released numerous CDs as a solo artist, proving he has the necessary drive and inner strength, in addition to the business acumen to match his musical artistry. Giving 100 percent of his heart and soul to his fans and listeners, he touches lives positively through his musical expressions. This bodes well for him in the future.