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Pete Cater


“A gifted and versatile drummer, at home in any context”

(Rough Guide to Jazz)



Pete Cater was born with a drumstick in each hand. His father was a drummer, and his grandfather a saxophonist and bandleader.  Pete’s precocious rhythmic awareness was apparent from the outset. Movie footage exists of him hand drumming aged barely 12 months and the innate talent cannot be missed. His musical tastes matured similarly early, and courtesy of his Dad’s record collection he was, by age 5, already a devotee of Joe Morello, Buddy Rich and Louie Bellson. The following year it was a television appearance by Rich on the UK children’s magazine programme “Magpie” that proved to be the turning point in the young drummer’s evolution.


“Up until then I had heard all this drumming on records, but the visual impact of what Buddy was doing was incredibly powerful. I remember that as soon as the show was over, I ran upstairs and tried to copy what I had just witnessed. That was it. The bar was set and I knew what I had to aspire to from that moment”.


Throughout these early years Pete never missed an opportunity to play. At this point he was going to work with his father and sitting in whenever possible. Playing with adult musicians proved to be invaluable experience, so that when Pete joined the Midlands Youth Jazz Orchestra aged 13 his playing had the maturity of an adult drummer (http://www.youtube.com/v/R3vFtBUtXNI), by 18 his prowess on the instrument was a clear indicator of what the future would hold (http://www.youtube.com/v/hCd1V7JFXlc) and at 19 he became by far the youngest member of the All Stars Big Band, an 18 piece made up of top players in his home city of Birmingham, England. The same year the first incarnation of the Pete Cater Big Band made its debut


“Looking back on that old footage more than 25 years later is very revealing. Obviously I was a ‘work in progress’ at that point (and still am) but there’s musicality and maturity that I’m actually quite proud of. I don’t sound like a kid in any of it. I remember a jazz journalist at the time describing me as ‘splendidly assured’ which I think sums it up pretty well”.


Big band playing led to small groups and Pete began playing with mainstream jazz musicians of an earlier generation. During this period he got to perform with USA legends including Benny Carter, Barney Kessell, Harry “Sweets” Edison, Eddie Lockjaw Davis, Nat Pierce, Teddy Edwards, and

many key figures from the UK, including Ronnie Scott, Dick Morrissey, Humphrey Lyttelton and John Dankworth.


Unfortunately this being the 1980s and the era of synth pop and electric drums, there was no tangible career path for a young jazz/swing/big band drummer in Pete’s hometown so he spent the next few years pursuing a nomadic existence working on cruise ships, resorts, theatres and one-night-stands. Jazz had to take second place for the time being.


In 1992, back in Birmingham briefly, Pete had occasion to play with Cuban trumpet virtuoso Arturo Sandoval. So impressed was Sandoval that he offered Pete dates in Europe later that year doing concerts paying homage to Clifford Brown.


“We played Leverkusen, Germany one day. Steve Smith was on before us, and Billy Cobham immediately afterwards. Luckily I don’t get scared easily”.


On his return from Europe Pete took what would turn out to be the most important gamble of his career to date, got off the road and settled in London. Once again jazz took a back seat and Pete rapidly became in demand across a broad spectrum of live and studio work.


“I was making good money and establishing myself in London, but music wasn’t much fun at that time”.


As time passed Pete began to work his way in to the London jazz scene. He took a virtually full time road gig with singer Elaine Delmar which established him as a “name” throughout the UK, and his stunning, virtuoso solos consistently brought the house down. Also at this time Pete toured with the legendary Charlie Byrd and the Buddy DeFranco/Terry Gibbs quintet.


By now Pete had played with just about every top big band on the London circuit and had strong opinions about repertoire and how big band music should be interpreted. The result of his vision was a gathering of 16 of the most outstanding young musicians in Great Britain at the time, and the Pete Cater Big Band made its debut on April 30th 1995. The band soon established a strong presence on the London jazz scene and began appearing all over the UK on the festival circuit.



In 1997 Pete had to put the big band on hold for an extended tour of Japan with the Glenn Miller Orchestra, but immediately on his return to England work was concluded on the debut album “Playing With Fire” which helped to spread the word beyond UK shores and resulted in Pete being a shoo-in for Big Band of the Year in the British Jazz Awards 2000, and Critic’s Choice the following year.


This success brought Pete to the attention of Vocalion records, and the follow up album “Upswing” was recorded at the home of the Beatles, the legendary Abbey road studio 2 later that same year.

This was also one of the first CDs in the world to be recorded in the new 5.1 surround sound SACD format developed by Sony and Philips. The band has remained a popular attraction at UK jazz festivals ever since and its most recent album “The Right Time” (Vocalion) was released in 2006.


In 2002 Pete was elevated to the ranks of British jazz royalty when he was first choice to replace the late Ronnie Verrell (‘Animal’ from the Muppet Show) in the Best of British Jazz, an all-star sextet under the leadership of trombonist Don Lusher. Pete also appeared regularly with Don Lusher’s big band until Lusher passed away in 2006.


“Don was the epitome of what a professional musician should be, not just as a player but also as a man. I’ve never worked for anyone who treated the people around him with so much respect, and the fact that we became so close in his final years was really quite an honour”.


Also during this period Pete worked with electronica pioneer and big band tyro Matthew Herbert on the crossover album “Goodbye Swingtime”, which resulted in live performances all over the world, from the Shanghai Jazz Festival to the Hollywood Bowl. Pete taught jazz drums for many years at the renowned Drumtech academy in London, and remains in demand for clinics, masterclasses and drum shows. Of recent times he has appeared at the National Drum Fair, The Rhythm Course organized by the International Drum Foundation, and a one-off concert to mark Buddy Rich’s 90th birthday entitled “The World’s Greatest Drummer” which also featured appearances from Ian Paice, Steve White and Ian Palmer amongst others.


Most recently Pete has appeared in a number of concerts with the big band where the emphasis has been on re-examining the Buddy Rich repertoire, and the October 2007 London concert ‘The Man From Planet Jazz’ was an enormous success. (http://www.youtube.com/v/IlwXspyNVrc).

Pete’s next album although not a ‘tribute album’ as such, will be honouring the influence of Buddy’s fantastic musical legacy.


Pete Cater continues to care passionately that big band music is sustainable and properly represented in the ever more diverse contemporary music scene. Not for him collaborations with ersatz crooners or bizarre fusions of diametrically opposed and often incompatible styles,


“Like trying to play tennis with a golf club, it makes about as much sense sometimes. What I’m about is looking at what made big band music great in the first place, hanging on to those core values and placing them in a relevant and up-to-date context”.


Now, thanks to the influence of the internet, Pete is gathering considerable momentum in territories the band has yet to visit, in particular the USA and Japan, a near perfect juxtaposition of modern technology being utilized to promote a truly classic musical genre.