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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.

Making use of external influences.

FG - You have a wealth of experience accompanying jazz and pop greats like Elaine Delmar, Don Lusher and Charlie Byrd all the way to Matthew Herbert (add any others that you like).   What has this experience enabled you to bring to the band?

PC - I've always derived a lot of pleasure not to mention benefit from working with older musicians.   Doing the Ted Heath tribute gigs with Don Lusher a year or two back was a real highlight.   You have musicians in that band who have been at the top of the profession for four decades, and in many cases even longer.   If you keep your eyes and ears open you cannot help but pick up on some of that wisdom and experience, and to be treated as an equal by the Don Lushers and Roy Willoxs of this world is really quite an honour.   I've spent a lot of time in small groups backing visiting Americans over the years.   I think that happens less now, the emphasis is more on groups coming over, so picking up the 'local' rhythm section doesn't happen so much now.   What used to impress me with certain of these guys was how prepared they were.   I'm talking here about people like Benny Carter, Charlie Byrd, Teddy Edwards, Sweets Edison, some of the greatest talents we've ever seen.   They were slick, smartly turned out, knew what they were going to play and got on with it.   Those qualities of professionalism and presentation really count for a lot, and I get angry when I see those elements of live performing being neglected.

Working with Matthew Herbert has been interesting.   Here's a guy who's a big success in other areas of music and has shown the commitment and investment to take a full-size big band on the road and put it in front of thousands of young people, at major festivals, with truly dramatic results.   This just goes to prove that young people are open to this music and will respond to it very positively.   Don't be under the impression that it's a rock band with a big horn section, like Mr Holland.   Matthew's thing is very eclectic.   You can go from playing a 'deep house' groove to full-on Ellingtonian swing in a matter of moments, and of course to play at the Hollywood Bowl with a band full of LA heavyweights was a lot of fun too!

FG - How do you see the modern big band developing as a whole?   With the variety of different funk, latin and hip-hop grooves available?

PC - Once again, we're just continuing to develop in the proven way that we've seen down the years.   Case in point, Kenton didn't re-invent the genre, when he recorded 'Cuban Fire', he just put a new slant on it, but it was still immediately identifiable as big band jazz.   Think of the great road bands of the 60s and 70s, Woody, Buddy, Maynard.   They took rock and roll on board, incorporated it with the core values of the genre, and came out with music that was exciting, fresh, and, of course, performed to a very high standard.   Not all of it worked, some of it was a little bit lightweight, but the best of it has lasted and really added another dimension to how big band music is perceived.   Most importantly it made the music interesting to a broader demographic above and beyond the diehard purists.   As I said a moment ago, nothing is off limits, and I'm open to influence from all sorts of directions.   All I would say is there has to be something new about what you do when you're a bandleader.   To merely re-create what has gone before shows a critical lack of which case go work in a bank!


FG - Having said this, to what extent do you value 'exploring and celebrating variations of swing-related rhythms?

PC - The swung eighth note rhythm is the lifeblood of jazz.   It's been there since day one and always will be.   We now have a much broader rhythmic palette to employ, but without a profound understanding of the concept of swing you're not going to be building on a very solid foundation.   That goes for all players of all instruments.   It's not going to go out of date as long as there are people like you around who can continue to breathe new life into it from the composing and arranging standpoint.

FG - Do you see our audience dwindling?   If so, what ways do you envision building it up again?

PC - It's really important that young people get to hear this music.   There will always be the 'niche' audience that will find the music by themselves.   By that I mean the swing dancers who love Jay Craig's band or the young jazz fans who are into what I'm doing, or what Bill Ashton is doing with NYJO.   It's important that young musicians just starting out have something to aspire too, where they can see players in their 20s and 30s doing something of great value that they can aim at too.   What's also extremely interesting to me is the massive power of the internet.   Through I've got teenage kids in the USA checking out our music and really getting into it.   This is without doubt the way of the future.   We've had great radio coverage with 'The Right Time' and hopefully that can be built upon further, and that further down the line I will be able to increase our live performing opportunities without compromising my musical integrity.

I think we still have a problem with ghost bands, and that too much attention gets given to warming over what has been done many, many times before.   You're not going to develop a significant new audience by trotting out all the tired old Miller arrangements, but having said that you're not going to do it by playing a whole evening of jazz originals none of which is shorter than ten minutes.   So there has to be a middle ground, where you can take the very best elements and core values of where the music has been, where it currently is and where it might go in the future.   Somebody once said, very wisely, 'It's not where you take it from, it's where you take it to'.

FG Thanks Pete, it's been a real pleasure!

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