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.
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 and working side by side with a couple of top USA drummers.
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.
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.
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.
A drummer of rare versatility Pete ’ s performance credits also include Tom Jones, Kid Creole and the Coconuts and Jamie Cullum.
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, so much so that Pete was approached by the veteran big band impresario Derek Boulton, former manager of Tony Bennett, to take this show on the road around theatres and concert halls all over the UK.
The concerts have been received with tremendous enthusiasm by audiences.
Pete ’ s next 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 have just 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. Not for him collaborations with ersatz crooners or bizarre fusions of diametrically opposed and often incompatible styles.
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.
Pete Cater Big Band, “The Right Time” (Vocalion)
Pete Cater Big Band, “Upswing” (Vocalion)
Pete Cater Big Band, “Playing With Fire” (Jazzizit)
Matthew Herbert, “Goodbye Swingtime” (Accidental)
Spike Robinson “The CTS Session” (Hep)
Sheena Davies, “Smile” (Jazzizit)
The Best of British Jazz, “Abbey Road Sessions” (Vocalion)
Above photo by: Charlie Chan