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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.

The development of the Pete Cater Band.

FG - How has your band developed and evolved during the last 10 years?

PC - That's a good question, and it's interesting to look back in hindsight and to see how far we've come since the early days.   In order to get this into context you have to look at how and why this organization came into being in the first place.   I'd been in London for about 18 months when the wheels got set in motion.   During that time I'd become friends with some really talented young players, people like Howard McGill, Andy Cuss, Scott Garland, Dave Jones and so on.   These were the guys who really were the backbone of the band when it first got started.   Also I had a library from my previous two bands in the Midlands, and there was plenty of good material in there, particularly stuff by Thad Jones and Bob Mintzer, two of my all time favourite writers.   This was music that nobody was really doing justice to at the time, so there was a ready-made goal to aim at.   We first rehearsed in January '95, and were gigging regularly by April.

FG - Do you see its role or status in the UK as having changed in that time?

PC - The status has changed totally of course.   A lot of musicians have put bands together for all sorts of reasons.   You get hold of some charts, call up your buddies, find some rehearsal space and then hopefully get a few gigs on the circuit.   I think I am unique in that I have trodden that well-worn path but have managed to get out of that loop and establish a professional big band with an all-jazz music policy that has been able to appear all over the UK and make some pretty successful records along the way.   It's unusual for this to happen outside of the ghost band circuit except for when a writer puts a band together for a specific project.   I've been at pains to build a repertoire that is unique to us and which continues to evolve.   Also, winning the British Jazz Award in 2000 was a huge boost to our public profile.

FG - In what direction do you see it going now?   For instance, adding any new elements (i.e. singers, guest soloists, new genres of music)?

PC - I would never rule out collaborations with different artists on a case by case basis, but what is most interesting to me is when we breathe life into new music that will hopefully become a mainstay of our book.   It is my hope that I will be able to continue to evolve both as a player and a leader, but I must stress here that the die is cast.   I'm not going to be re-inventing myself (or the band) anytime soon.   I know the kind of player I am and how I feel the band needs to sound.   Within those parameters there's enormous scope for innovation and progress and that's what I'm aspiring to now.   There are still dozens of outlines for new charts in my notebooks, so there's plenty to do in the future.   As far as genres are concerned I would honestly say that nothing is off limits.   Looking at that from another angle for a moment there is only one genre and that is 'big band' - you can borrow from almost any other area if you're building on a solid foundation.   To me, that 4/4 swing feel is at the heart of everything, along with dynamic and dramatic ensemble work.   If you've got those core values together then you can go practically anywhere rhythmically and harmonically.

FG - Can you list and discuss some of your favourite big bands and writers, old and new?


PC - To a greater or lesser degree I've taken something from almost every band I've ever heard.   Certain key contributors really stand out though.   Woody Herman's 1948 band was an early influence.   All those great jazz soloists and writing by Ralph Burns, Neal Hefti, Shorty Rogers and the like.   Add to that a great precision ensemble kicked along by Don Lamond, one of the most important big band drummers in history, and you've really found the formula.   See, they maintained the values of swing and ensemble precision that had gone before and just put a fresh slant on it.   Also, early on, I heard Shorty Rogers' 'Cool and Crazy' sessions - that to me was like a more hard swinging Kenton band, with a lot of the same players of course.   Now, really getting down to business, Count Basie.   If you know Basie's music, with particular regard to the emphasis on time and dynamics, then you're a long way towards understanding what is really at the heart of what makes a band tick.

So many great drummers too, Sonny Payne, Butch Miles, Harold Jones and of course Jo Jones, all big influences on my development.   As far as the evolution of the genre is concerned, not only musically but also commercially, one can never overstate the importance of Benny Goodman.   He's right up there with Ellington and Basie in terms of the laying down of the ground rules of what this music is and getting it to an audience.   Goodman knew the formula too, there's no secret as to how it's done.   He had great writers on board like Fletcher Henderson, he brought forward star soloists from within the organization, people like Krupa, Harry James, Lionel Hampton and Teddy Wilson, and he showcased their talents in settings that were appropriate.   Once again it was coupled with superlative ensemble work. 'next', at right, to read on.....

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