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Duo a melding of musical minds

When guitarist Tuck Andress first encountered singer Patti Cathcart at a band audition, it wasn’t just a case of boy meets girl.

It was a melding of musical minds.

Although the California pop band they joined only had a short run, the two went on to perform as the long-lived duo Tuck & Patti. Through this tight musical partnership, they became close friends and eventually a romantic, then married couple.

But from the outset it was clear they shared a certain chemistry and philosophy.

Cathcart said both she and Andress agreed that every tune they tackled as a duo “had to speak to and be played from our hearts. ... We are convinced that this principle is one of our secret weapons.”

And it’s a potent one. After 36 years of togetherness, both personally and professionally, Tuck & Patti have recorded 14 albums as a duo and are still performing all over the world.

Their last gig was a week-long stint at a jazz cafe in Madrid, Spain. And they will next headline on Friday, Aug. 15, at Sylvan Lake’s Jazz at the Lake festival.

They are particularly looking forward to the Central Alberta gig because it was years in the making. Andress said the offer was made to play at the festival a couple of years ago, but they had to wait until it lined up with other Alberta dates. “We’ve been trying to make it happen,” he added — and finally succeeded.

The couple intends to perform a little bit of everything at the festival — from songs from the great American song book, as recorded on the pair’s last album, I Remember You, to jazz standards and original tunes written by Cathcart.

Every song will get the Tuck & Patti treatment, which means a rich, layered guitar melody and warm, buttery vocals. “Jazz musicians are always writing songs and reinterpreting them,” said Cathcart. “We can’t help playing them our way because it’s Tuck playing the guitar and me singing.”

The duo’s interpretations of Cyndi Lauper’s Time After Time and The Beatles’ In My Life have received thousands of YouTube hits.

Andress, who’s been called one of the finest guitar players in the world, started out on an electric instrument after being inspired by Chuck Berry, Jimi Hendrix and jazz guitarist Wes Montgomery.

The Oklahoma-born Andress, who was previously a session player with The Gap Band, now plays both the electric and acoustic guitars with a similar finger-style technique that makes it sound as if three instruments are being strummed at the same time.

Since the duo’s music consists of only voice and guitar accompaniment, he said he has to make his guitar arrangements stand in for an entire orchestra.

Cathcart, who was born in San Francisco, studied the violin for years but was eventually encouraged by her music teacher to take up singing instead. “I listened to every style of music, from gospel to jazz, big band as well as R&B, and blues and country,” said Cathcart, who never takes on any song she doesn’t love.

Interestingly, love tends to factor into every original song she ever writes, points out Andress. That’s not to say his wife has a thing for sappy love tunes, but rather that Cathcart recognizes love is the essential connection between all human beings.

“I write about life the way I see it and I try to see the glass-half-full side of things,” she said, but sometimes she purposely pairs her upbeat melodies with fairly weighty lyrics that hint at the spiritual.

Cathcart believes a glimpse of the divine can be seen in all forms of art — whether it be a though-provoking painting or an inspirational song.

The couple, who long ago decided they couldn’t have children as well as a music career, have a not-so secret solution to having a long and productive partnership. Cathcart said it’s working through the hard parts.

“A lot of people are always looking for an out, but we made a commitment to each other that there would be no out — so we’ve got no choice, we have to make it work!”

Tickets to Tuck & Patti’s 8 p.m. concert at Sylvan Lake’s Alliance Community Church, at 4404 47th Ave., are $35 from the Sylvan Lake Aquatic Centre. Call 403-887-2199.

For scheduled events, performers and more information about the festival that runs from Aug. 14 to 17 at various venues, visit

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