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Dialogue - Frank Griffith talks to Pete Cater Print
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Dialogue - Frank Griffith talks to Pete Cater
2. The development of the Pete Cater Band.
3. Making use of external influences.

cater_pete_100_imgThe economics of presenting a professional big band and maintaining musical integrity in the repertoire is a challenge that requires dedication and courage.   Frank Griffith looks at the music and explores the issues with Pete Cater

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Intro - Talking about big bands.

Gary Hobbs, a drummer from Portland Oregon, was Stan Kenton's last drummer from 1975-1978, the year of Stan's passing.   Gary told me shortly after this that Stan hired him partly because 'Stan liked writing- drummers' - Gary, being no mean composer and arranger, is still doing so today for groups large and small.   I presume the reason for this is that the drummer is the full time shaper and structuralist of the dynamic and dramatic force of the big band.   The conductor from within the band, if you like.   Leading examples of this include Louis Bellson, Tiny Kahn, Dennis Mackrell and Peter Erskine as well as our own British legends like Allan Ganley, and Tony Kinsey.   All respected composer arrangers as well as 'signature drummers', as Mel Lewis used to refer to them.

Bandleader and drummer Pete Cater, while not being a composer /arranger, per se, possesses many of the same skills and attributes as the aforementioned percussion icons.   Having played with and collaborated with Pete now for 10 years, I regularly recognise and learn from his abilities to inherently know how long a given phrase, note or section should be, before wearing out its welcome.   The same applies for his talent for picking tunes and vehicles for the band's pad and in which order to programme them.   Composer and bandleader Bob Brookmeyer told me in 1990, in advising me how to go about putting a concert order together, that it was much like composing an extended 2 hour piece.   As the chief architect of the rhythmic shape and dynamics of the band, Pete is forever intimately conscious of these factors in a way like no other band member or 'audient' can be.

A typical scenario of our working methods in writing an arrangement together will start with Pete suggesting a particular tune or kind of tune he'd like me to compose or arrange and then sketch out a general form and structure (how many choruses and where the 'connecting bits', introductions, interludes, codas, etc, occur) at which point he deploys me to the garret to put pencil to paper (my method still, as music software always 'wins' when I use it).   Pete will often suggest rhythmic figures that occupy key points in the piece which he writes out in his 'Machiavellian hand'.   These ideas are then adapted and orchestrated into the piece at hand, so each of our collaborations bear the signature of Pete's creative contribution.

Our work together has been documented on the band's 3 CDs, Playing With Fire (1998), Upswing (2000) and most recently The Right Time (2006).   The titles include Monty Alexander's Regulator, Leonard Bernstein's Some Other Time, Horace Silver's Strollin and Silver's Serenade and an original idea from Pete, which became my composition Take the Money and Run.

The latest release, at the time of writing, The Right Time is on big band impresario Michael Dutton's Vocalion label (CDSA6815) and was recorded at London's fabled Abbey Road Studios.   If features among others, British jazz stalwarts trombonist Barnaby Dickinson, trumpeter Henry Collins, alto saxist Sam Mayne and expatriate American altoist, Bob Martin, along with the crack rhythm team of Pete, bassist Dave 'Dad' Jones and pianist Matt O'Regan.


The material has been all generated from within or around the band.   In addition to my arrangements and compositions, leading British writers like Adrian Fry, Matt O'Regan, Clive Dunstall, Matt Wates and Kevin Wedrychowski all contributed scores.   The only exception to this is a 1960s treasure, Oliver Nelson's   Lancy Lynn, written for Buddy Rich's band but never previously recorded.   This chart features Bob Martin's subdued but piquant alto.   As it happens, Bob played with Buddy during the early 1970s.   Also particularly memorable is Matt O'Regan's treatment of Wayne Shorter's   Palladium (with offerings from Pete, no doubt).   This 1970s fusion piece which helped to define Weather Report's sound converts very effectively to the big band.   This is largely due to Pete's and Dave Jones' stylistic command of the idiom and the up-to-date resourcefulness of O'Regan's arrangement.   Not to mention the excellent band's versatility, rising to the challenge of tackling this formidable genre.

A final and important point.   'Pete is the one of the very few bandleaders to commission composers and arranger off his own bat' as leading jazz writer Dave Gelly observes.   Gelly continues, '...with no grants or funding from arts councils and suchlike.   He decides what he wants and backs his own judgement.   The band sounds the way it does because that's the way he wants it to sound'.

Long may it continue! 'next', at right, to read on.....

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