Featured Musician - April 2007

Name: Pete Krebs

Instrument: guitar, voice.

Early Years/Education:
I got my first guitar when I was eleven and had two lessons with a classical teacher who was so mean I quit. At age fifteen I was sent to Valley Forge Military Academy in Pennsylvania where I joined the choir. That was the only way you could get off campus and it kept me singing. Came out to Oregon to go to college at OSU and stared to dabble in music while I was there. I suffered a serious illness which brought me to Portland for treatments so on visits here I got exposed to the music scene. It didn’t take long for me to move to Portland to pursue music. I’ve been fortunate to have experienced this great music scene from a bunch of different angles… I started in the punk- rock clubs, and rock and roll venues; did the coffee house/small club circuit as a songwriter; my band Golden Delicious played the bluegrass festivals and old time music festivals, and now I’m primarily focusing on jazz.

I’ve always listened to a lot of different, non-mainstream music, but Django Reinhardt was really the first jazz musician that really got me. Django was this mysterious person with brilliant ideas and had such a novel approach, making this music his own. I never thought I’d have the opportunity to play this kind of music. Gypsy jazz is taking off around the world.

The Pete Krebs Trio which is composed of two guitars and upright bass. We’re in the middle of recording our first full length CD due out this summer. The CD will be half vocal tunes, some original material as well as some standards and Latin music. It’ll feature James Mason, Farnell Newton, Keith Brush, David Langenes and Todd Bayles. I’m also in a vocal jazz group called the Stolen Sweets. The Sweets play music of the Boswell Sisters, a 1930’s group. The Boswells were from New Orleans and we’re working out some of their original arrangements. I also lead a gypsy-jazz combo called Pete Krebs Gypsy Swing which plays mostly casuals. And I’ve just been asked to join the very well established Pearl Django.

Gypsy Jazz:
There’s a fairly strong local scene for this music. There’s jam sessions Wednesday nights at the Clinton Corner Café at 21st and Clinton; Saturday afternoons at the Moon and Sixpence in the Hollywood district; ten or more people usually show up…violinists, bass players, an occasional clarinetist or squeeze box player but primarily it’s guitar-driven music. On a certain level everybody can play this music, you don’t have to go to Berklee to understand it. Gypsy jazz provides an entrée into actually playing improvised jazz that’s more accessible to the average musician.In some sense gypsy jazz is the future of jazz; it’s bringing it back into a public forum that the average listener can appreciate.

House of Cards:
My business partner Jen Bernard and I started a booking agency over a year ago with the intent of having a specific group of bands for a specific market (namely private parties, weddings, corporate gigs). We thought it would be cool to hand pick a roster of bands that artistically really intrigued us. We began working with Vagabond Opera, Three Leg Torso, and of course our own projects. It’s a varied group of musicians and we have a professional website where you can hear what they all sound like.

Musical Influences:
I’m really affected by the “spirit” of a musician. Duke Ellington, Louis Armstrong, Fats Waller, Art Tatum, Lester Young, Coleman Hawkins, Chet Baker, Nina Simone, Rahssan Roland Kirk, Steve Lacy, Bud Powell; then there’s the gypsy guys like Django Reinhardt, Birelli Legren, Patrick Saussois, Dorado Schmitt, Fapy Lafertin, Koen de Cauter, (Dutch bass clarinetist, violinist and guitarist); and locally trumpeter Farnell Newton, and drummer Lou Chavez; I like the western swing players like Bob Wills and his Texas Playboys, The Hot Club of Cowtown, etc.

Most Satisfying Experience:
Just got hired to play rhythm guitar for Pearl Django…what a compliment! I’m really looking forward to learning from those guys. I’ll be touring with them this summer. (Seattle-based Pearl Django is one of the oldest and most popular gypsy swing bands in the country.) Some other really satisfying moments include the first time I played with a drummer. I was around age eighteen and thought …this is what I want to do for the rest of my life. Also, the first time I played a guitar solo, I felt that release where I wasn’t thinking about what I was doing, it just was happening. I had a glimpse into a kind of narcotic musical moment, realizing oh, this is what it’s all about.

Favorite Recordings:
Integrate Django Reinhardt series- 40 disc set of the master’s complete recorded legacy;
Chet Baker’s “Let’s Get Lost” soundtrack (recorded at the end of his life and very difficult to listen to.There’s a brittle beauty in the way he sings, which has influenced my vocal style a great deal.)
Complete Nat King Cole Trio (Oscar Moore is such a fantastic guitarist.)
Stephane Wrembel “Barbes Brooklyn” (new CD from this master guitarist – the future of Django inspired jazz.)
Louis Armstrong ‘Hot Fives and Sevens’ — self-explanatory.
Rahsaan Roland Kirk ‘Does Your House Have Lions’ — compilation. I was deeply affected upon hearing Roland Kirk for the first time.
Bix Beiderbeck ‘Singin’ the Blues’ — his solo on this side is so moving and absolutely perfect.
Baro Ferret ‘Swing Valse’ — a contemporary of Django, he made this recording of bebop-inspired waltzes from the Romany and bal Musette repertoire.
Fats Waller — anything. So funny, charming, talented and inspiring.
Raymond Scott Quintet — anything. Known primarily for writing and arranging the music featured in the classic Warner Bros. cartoons, his compositions are quirky (to say the least), evocative and just plain weird.
Bud Powell ‘Complete Recordings on Verve’ — To me, Bud Powell comes from the same beautiful planet as Rahssan Roland Kirk.
Farnell Newton and Marcus Reynolds ‘Sense of Direction’ – Farnell is my favorite local musician, and I’m always inspired by his tasteful playing that’s equal parts past and future.
Lester Young box set on Proper Records — nice introduction to his music. He swings so hard, but you don’t need me to tell you that. My very favorite saxophonist of all time.

Pete Krebs and the Kung Pao Chickens, “Hot Ginger and Dynamite” 1998; w/ The Stolen Sweets, “Shuffle Off To Buffalo” 2005. Pete Krebs and the Gossamer Wings “I Know by Heart” 2002 and “Sweet Ona Rose” 1998; Pete Krebs: “Bittersweet Valentines” 1997, “Western Electric” 1996, “Brigadier” 1995; Golden Delicious “Live” 1996 and “Old School” 1995; and three CDs with the punk-pop group Hazel; This is just a partial list.

My trio plays the happy hour on Saturdays at the Laurelthirst Public House, 30th and NE Glisan. We have monthly gigs at the Press Club, the Sapphire Hotel, Andina Restaurant and play late night from 9 to 11:30pm at the Gotham Tavern. The Trio will be at the Sapphire Hotel on Sunday, April 1 from 8-11:30; at the Laurelthirst Pub Saturdays April 7 and the 21st from 6-8; and at the Press Club Friday April 20 from 8:30 to 11. The Stolen Sweets will be at the Blue Monk on Saturday, April 7 from 9 to 12 and at Tony Starlight’s on Friday April 13 from 9-12.

Future Plans:
I’d like to become better than I am now…like to find a way to incorporate all of my influences directly. I’m happy to be playing with Pearl Django and the Stolen Sweets. I’d like to head back over to Europe to learn more about the music.

Portland is so welcoming…if you have a lot of energy you can create your own scene.


-- Interviewed by Rita Rega

Copyright 2007, Jazz Society of Oregon