“A gifted and versatile drummer, at home in any context”
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.
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”.
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
key figures from the UK, including Ronnie Scott, Dick Morrissey, Humphrey
Lyttelton and John Dankworth.
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.
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”.
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”.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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
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).
next album although not a ‘tribute album’ as such, will be honouring the
influence of Buddy’s fantastic musical legacy.
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”.
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.