Tuck and Patti are a musical marriage unparalleled in jazz. Patti Cathcart’s gospel-tinged voice can sear and soar. And Tuck Andress’ unique guitar playing evokes lush orchestras and ultra-funky R&B bands. It’s no wonder they’ve shared the stage with Miles, Dizzy, Ella, and dozens more jazz luminaries. But it may come as a surprise that Patti jammed with Jimi Hendrix in her Bay Area youth and Tuck toured with the GAP band for four years, his “graduate degree in soul music.” Tuck’s real education began right here at Stanford in the ’70s and Patti clocked a decade of classical violin training before the two met and exploded on the jazz scene. If you haven’t experienced the magic of this duo, you’ll be a lifelong fan after this concert.
Additional info: www.tuckandpatti.com.
The title of Tuck and Patti’s 1998 album Paradise Found suggests a state of completion and contentment that has long been the duo’s emotional hallmark. Celebrating 35 years as musical partners, three decades of marriage, and the 25th anniversary of their debut recording, guitarist Tuck Andress and vocalist Patti Cathcart return to the Stanford Jazz Festival more enthralled with each other than ever.
The nature of their partnership is one of perpetual renewal. A dazzling guitarist with a bright, ringing tone, Andress has honed a richly harmonic and intensely rhythmic style that provides Cathcart with orchestral accmpaniment. A soulful singer with a husky, burnished voice, she’s created an oeuvre encompassing the romantic, sensual, and spiritual dimensions of love. Their devoted following means they feel obligated to play their most popular songs, but the nature of their musical partership prevents falling into creative ruts.
“We have a commitment not to be predictable to each other,” Andress says. We’re really spoiled that way. We live in the magic, and we’re still hooked on this collaboration. We don’t take this for granted at all.”
“We have the great luxury that we’ve never recorded any songs we didn’t love,” Cathcart adds. “I’d advise anybody if you’re lucky to have any measure of success, do the same thing, because you’re going to be playing that song for a long time.”
Combining jazz-distilled improvisation with gospel phrasing and pop melodic hooks, the duo makes unapologetically feel-good music. Since the release of their phenomenally successful 1988 debut, Tears of Joy (Windham Hill), the couple has refined their almost telepathic musical connection while expanding their repertoire with original material and well-chosen pop and soul tunes.
Talking with Tuck and Patti from their house in Menlo Park, their easy rapport and intuitive give–and–take comes through clearly as they trade off answering questions, at times finishing each other’s thoughts but almost never stepping on each other’s verbal riffs.
“The thread of improvisation runs through everything we do,” Andress says. “Even when the music’s arranged, there’s always this conversation going on. Even songs that we’ve played thousands of times, you really never know what’s going to happen at any given moment.”
Part of Tuck and Patti’s success stems from their ability to infuse songs culled from contemporary pop with jazz’s spontaneity. The music on Paradise Found, for instance, ranges from Laura Nyro’s “Captain for Dark Mornings” and Lieber and Stoller’s “Dance With Me,” to Lennon and McCartney’s “I Will” and the most sensuously compelling version of Al Green’s “Let’s Stay Together” since the good reverend waxed the original back in 1971.
“The jazz influence comes through because we’re deeply rooted in jazz traditions,” Cathcart says. “But we’re also products of the ’60s, so we grew up with Jimi Hendrix and the Beatles as well as John Coltrane, and all of that winds up in the music. I try to find the essence or the heart of the song, like with ‘Let’s Stay Together.’ To me that was always the most dreamy, passionate tune. You just want to hear those lyrics, they don’t have to be yelled or screamed out.”
Understatement is a hallmark of the Tuck and Patti sound. While often including other musicians on their recordings, in concert Tuck and Patti retain the uncluttered purity of their duo format. It’s a sound that they virtually invented in the late ’70s, though their initial inspiration came from the classic Pablo duo recordings of Ella Fitzgerald and Joe Pass.
“They were definitely our models, we learned every song on their albums,” Cathcart says.
“But they weren’t even doing it part-time,” Andress adds. “They were off doing all kinds of other things and they’d come together to make a record. We found a lot of people who did guitar/vocal duets sometimes, but nobody who just threw themselves heart and soul entirely into this.”
With their original sound, Tuck and Patti quickly gained a dedicated following around the Bay Area in the early ’80s. They were working constantly, but it was a decade before they made their first album. Supporting themselves through teaching and performing, they decided to perfect their approach before documenting it in the studio.
“When we first got together in 1978, we immediately fell in love with the challenge of the duo context,” Cathcart says. “But we also knew we had a long way to go. Every band I’d ever been in got together on Monday and started looking for a record deal on Friday. We really had the luxury and enormous gift of being able to just think about the music. All our friends thought we were insane.”
It turned out they were crazy like foxes. When they finally got around to recording in 1988, their Windham Hill albums arrived just as the smooth jazz radio format coalesced. Though the Wave format is also responsible for Kenny G, in its early incarnation it allowed more musical acts to break through. Tuck and Patti’s accessible, jazz–influenced sound fit the new niche perfectly, and a national audience soon responded with the same enthusiasm as had Bay Area listeners for years.
“If we had come out two or three years earlier, people might have said, well this is great, but no one would have heard it,” Cathcart says. “That’s how we got the audience. It was one of those remarkable moments when a lot of us rammed through that little space opened by the radio.”
Partially sponsored by Karl and Theresa Robinson.