Featured Musician - April 2008

Name : Noah Peterson

Noah Peterson

Instrument: alto and soprano saxophones

Early Years/Education: Music was always something my family did growing up. My Dad was a band director in Billings, Montana which is where I'm from. Music was never pushed on us. Dad played sax, Mom played a little sax, her grandfather played sax, I'm like a third generation sax player but I started on trumpet because my brothers played trumpet. I basically got into music because of the movie “The Blues Brothers” and I guess inadvertently Curtis Salgado who inspired them. In the film I saw John Lee Hooker play “Boom, Boom, Boom”, after that I picked up Hooker's  album of the same name, plus “Moanin' the Blues” and started my record collection. I then got into funk stuff and heard Maceo Parker play, got into Bootsy Collins, the Horny Horns and then Michael Brecker. So I picked up a couple of his records and now I'm a jazz fan.

After high school I attended the Armed Forces School of Music and served in the Marine Field Band at “29 Palms” California (the largest (15,000) Marine base). We did 400 shows a year..big band, combo, played pop music, played tons of Sousa and lots of British and German marches. We'd have Disney composers come in and want to run through their stuff for upcoming movies. Got to do the Bob Hope 90th anniversary special...met some incredible people. 

Portland: My former wife is from Portland, so that's why I moved here. In 1994 I studied at Marylhurst College (now University) and put together a band called “Miles Ahead.”  This was my first  band. I worked that band hard for eight years. We were a five piece modern jazz group who wrote a lot of our own material. Music is something I must do, music is something I have to do.  I find the business aspect just as fascinating if not more fascinating than the nature of jazz. I love putting gigs together, putting tours together, I enjoy the music business. Today, it's just Noah Peterson in duos, trios, quartet, soul-tet, quintet, etc. Last year I did 240 shows and used about 40 sub-contractors (local musicians).

When I hire, I practice reverse ageism: unless you're over 50, I probably don't want to play with you. The attitude is better, the chops are outstanding, they've got a catalog, they're going to show up on time, they're going to be well-dressed, they're going to know how to talk to people, the gear's going to work, etc. I'm pretty careful about how I put my bands together. I have some set ideas about this. I'll use the gut string guys when an amp is not needed but when you need a big bad sound I'll go with the guy who has a good amp. Being a producer as well, I spend a lot of time really listening ... I  know whose equipment sounds good and where it's going to sound good in what room. I have a BA in Music from Marylhurst University.

Disc Jockey: I'm one of the disc jockeys at Portland's college radio station, KPSU 1450 AM. You pretty much have to be downtown to hear it. We broadcast directly in the evenings and weekends. We're going for the on-line audience. On my show, “NW Jazz and More,” I only play Northwest jazz artists. I think we have high quality artists in the Northwest, and my thing is to promote jazz in the Northwest. Look at these current guys who are actively working and touring right now. I'm looking to promote those who are very serious about their work. I'm on from 10 a.m. to noon Monday at KPSU.ORG. Oregon, Washington, Idaho, Montana, Wyoming and British Columbia are where I draw from. I've toured around enough so I know people in the region, or the people I know, know everybody. You can download the show, it's archived.

Musical Influences: I love rock guitarists: John Fogerty, John Lee Hooker, George Thorogood and his sax player Hank “Hurricane” Carter; I love Dexter Gordon, Hank Mobley; I'm a big fan of Ivan “Boogoloo Joe” Jones (guitarist), and John McLaughlin. I also like Ravi Shankar, the vocal group Zap Mama, Bootsy Collins, and George Clinton.


Most Satisfying Experience: In some ways, yeah there's been a few highlights (like the CDs I've done), but thinking about it, I'm not even close to the high point yet. My “Live at Biddy McGraw's” was a Downbeat  “Featured CD,” so that works. All of the recordings I've done that I've actively marketed have received airplay from around the country, that's pretty satisfying. A few years ago was when I was visiting my brother in San Diego, and we turned on the radio and boom, there I was. One of my records got a four-star rating from the National Radio Association of Spain. One time the Canadian CBC put together a Peterson thing and linked Oscar Peterson with Gilles Petersen and me. That's good company!  

Favorite Recordings: Dexter Gordon, “Our Man in Paris”; Hank Mobley's “Soulstation”;  Bootsy Collins “Live”; Creedence Clearwater Revival, “Keep on Chooglin'”; Devin Phillips, “Wade in the Water,” one of the better records to come out of Portland, kudos to Darrell Grant for the production; and Anthony Braxton's “For Alto”.

Discography: I'm a firm believer that CDs should be complete works ... they need to have a beginning, middle and end. They need to have a particular sound. My CDs include: “Miles Ahead: Milepost 1” (2000); “Miles Ahead: Live at the Zebra Cocktail Lounge” (recorded in Bozeman, MT, 2001);  “Grunglefunk” (2002); “The Noah Peterson Quartet: Live at Biddy McGraw's” (mentioned in Downbeat, 2003);  “Noah Peterson: Bump” (2006); “Noah Peterson: Duos & Trios” (2007); and “Noah Peterson: Live at Marylhurst Drive” (2007).

Gigs: April 12, 4 pm, Enumclaw Concert Series, Enumclaw, Washington; April 18, 8 pm, Jimmy Mak's, Portland, a fundraiser for KPSU featuring four NW bands: “Cosmic Dust Fusion Band” w/John Nastos, Chris Mosley, Charlie Doggett; guitarist Frank Tribble will be putting a band together with Skip Elliott on bass; jazz singer Carla Harris will be there; and the “Noah Peterson Soul-Tet” with Alan Jones, Dave Captein, and Eli Reisman will end the night ($15 cover -- all proceeds go to the KPSU).

Future Plans: My future plans are to focus on my jazz combos and my art ensemble, “The Infinitia Art Ensemble.” I want to spend more time composing originals and pursuing investors to make more great records.  I'd like to promote my label and current catalog and start producing more great, original NW jazz.

Other: I'm at a point in my career where I'm done selling beer ... I'm writing more of my own stuff and am really enjoying the concerts.
Portland is a great town to be a musician.

-- by Rita Rega


Copyright 2008, Jazz Society of Oregon