June 18, 2024


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Pete Cater is a versatile drummer playing in all configurations of jazz groups: Video

08.02. – Happy Birthday !!! Pete Cater’s father (Peter Cater) was a drummer and his grandfather a jazz saxophonist and bandleader. Pete took up drums at a very early age and played with the Muidland Youth Jazz Orchestra. After playing with bands around the Midlands in the UK he formed his own big band in 1995 and this received the accolade of Best Big Band in the British Jazz Awards 2000.

He is a versatile drummer playing in all configurations of jazz groups and has accompanied many well known musicians including Spike Robinson, Benny Carter, Harry Edison, Terry Gibbs and Buddy de Franco. He plays all styles of jazz from big band, swing and mainstream to contemporary jazz. He was chosen to replace legendary drummer Ronnie Verrell in “The Best of British Jazz” (an all star jazz sextet led by trombonist Don Lusher) touring show in 2002. He has released three albums under his own name Playing with Fire (1997), Upswing (2000) and The Right Time (2006).

Pete Cater ended 2015 by being named in the top 8 jazz drummers in the world today in Rhythm magazine’s annual popularity poll (the other 7 were all from the USA). It was a fitting conclusion to a year which has seen many highlights including the 20th anniversary concert of the Pete Cater Big Band at London’s Cadogan Hall, artist in residence for the Premier Drum Company at Music China in Shanghai, a mainstage appearance at the 2015 London Drum Show,an appearance alongside Steve Gadd, Ian Palmer and Steve White at the World’s Greatest Drummer show and the launch of Pete’s new band, The Ministry of 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, by 18 his prowess on the instrument was a clear indicator of what the future would hold 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

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.
2015 marks the 20th anniversary of the Pete Cater Big Band, an achievement that is practically unequalled for a band playing 100% instrumental jazz.

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.

Also during this period Pete worked with electronica pioneer 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. A drummer of rare versatility, Pete’s performance credits also include Tom Jones, Kid Creole and the Coconuts and Jamie Cullum.

More 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.

The concerts have been received with tremendous enthusiasm by audiences.
Pete says,

“In all my years playing big band shows I’ve never known anything go down anywhere like as well as this show. The audience reaction has been quite amazing”.

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

Also, trendy dance music label Freestyle Records included a Pete Cater track on their newly released CD ‘Music For Jazz Dancers’.

Pete Cater continues to care passionately that big band music is sustainable and properly represented in the ever more diverse contemporary music scene.

Pete is also busy with other prominent jazz projects on the British scene. These include Wind Machine; a project devised by virtuoso Greek saxophonist Vasilis Xenopoulos which takes classic big band repertoire and re-imagines it in a Blue Note, organ quintet context. This group features standout British jazz stars guitarist Nigel Price, trumpeter Steve Fishwick and Bill Mudge on Hammond.

Pete also appears with the Organisation featuring top saxist Tony Kofi and the Bone Supremacy, an outstanding coming together of five top UK trombonists featuring outstanding new arrangements by Adrian Fry.

Pete endorses Premier drums, Zildjian cymbals and Vater drumsticks.

Also active in education Pete has a highly successful teaching studio at Bell Percussion in London, is a faculty mamber at the London Centre of Contemporary Music and appears at drum events throughout the UK including the Freddie Gee drum camp, the Ultimate Drum Experience, the Rhythm Course and at the UK Drum Fair of which he is honourary vice president. Pete is also on the board of trustees of British music charity the National Jazz Archive, dedicated to maintaining the presence of jazz in the UK and preserving its history.

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