Featured Musician - October 2010

Pete Petersen

Name : Pete Petersen

Instrument:  Tenor Saxophone

Early Life/Education: I was born in Portland but moved away at age six. Lived in a lot of places, including a year on the Nez Perce reservation where my dad was stationed as a doctor. Teenage years were in Boise, Idaho, where I heard Gene Harris for the first time; that’s what really got me hooked on jazz. Moved to Denver in 1987, earned a Bachelor of Music Degree from University of Denver. Studied saxophone from Art Bouton, who was the lead alto player for the Air Force Academy Falconaires Big Band in addition to being a professor of saxophone at DU. A drummer named Bruno Carr taught me about time, on the bandstand - I was invited to sit in with his quartet, I guess he thought I was a little too ambiguous with my time feel, so he just stopped, and so did everyone else, left me out there in the open; I could hear him lean over to the bass player and say, “You tell him I’ll come back in when he figures out where he’s at!” So I hesitated for a moment and then I dug in ... and then he came in and finished the tune. Later, Bruno came up and said, “Hey, young-blood, you better come back again and bring your horn with you.” I learned a lot from them, mainly about the difference between playing tunes in the practice room versus playing them for real on the bandstand.

In the early ‘90s I played in a quintet with drummer Rudy Royston, his wife Shamie, bassist Art Moore, and a trumpeter named James Barela. We were finalists in the Hennessey Jazz Search contest. I also played in a Funk/Thrash/Metal band called the Psychedelic Zombiez. We were the opening act for a lot of the Alternative Rock bands that came through town. I was deeply into Free Jazz at the time, so the Zombiez was a great outlet for me to play crazy avant-garde music with a high-energy thrash-funk edge and a full horn section — so it was also a great experience learning to write for horn sections.

I studied arranging with Tony Klatka, who had been a member of Blood Sweat and Tears and also the Woody Herman band. I also studied with Bob Montgomery, who had been with Clark Terry’s band. And I played in the Denver Jazz Orchestra, where I got to sit in a sax section next to Homer Brown, who had been a protege of Lester Young’s; they called Homer “Little Prez.” That was great, it was like being once-removed from that direct lineage. I also played and studied with Marvin Blackman, an ex-New York avant-garde player who had played with Rashied Ali. In 1994, I spent a year playing a club in Telluride, Colorado, that was partnering with the Telluride Jazz Festival to bring in big name jazz players, with us as the house band.

Bands: Art Abrams Band, Border Patrol Big Band, Quintet with Eddie Wied, Frank DeLaRosa and guitarist Michael Gargano, Soul Vaccination, Body and Soul. During the “Swing Revival” of the late ‘90s, I played tenor in Lily Wilde’s band.†Also with Johnny Martin, Klezmocracy, and the Bay-area boogie-woogie pianist, Mitch Woods. Currently, I’m playing in a couple of great horn sections, one with Ellen Whyte’s band, and another with Patrick Lamb. Have written a few horn section charts for them. I’m also a regular member of Linda Lee Michelet’s band with Joe Millward. And I tour a lot with Seattle pianist Solomon Douglas. Started my own band in 2004 called “Porkpie” in tribute to Lester Young in Porkpie band, but it has evolved doing less “dance music” and venturing into more straight-ahead, hard bop and other styles.

Influences: The first Jazz I heard was Gene Harris. I was too young to go to the club, so my parents would bring me down to the restaurant on the other side, and I would listen through the doorway. In college I listened to a lot of John Coltrane and Sonny Rollins. Miles Davis’s “Kind of Blue” and “Blue Trane,” late-period Coltrane, like “Om” and “Interstellar Space,” Pharaoh Sanders; Anthony Braxton and David Murray, Ron Miles and Art Lande, Branford Marsalis (his “Crazy People Music” was one of my favorite discs). Ben Webster and Lester Young, and the “Texas Tenor” sound of Gene Ammons and Stanley Turrentine

Most Satisfying Musical Experience: A couple of summers ago I was playing with Patrick Lamb’s at the Waterfront Blues Festival. Patrick always puts out such positive energy, his band is a real joy to play with. Very funky. It was one of those surreal moments when the energy of the music just completely took away every other thought, like time was standing completely still — there were these waves of joy blasting out from the stage and the crowd was dancing and feeling great, the energy was so good it was like that entire crowd had an ecstatic glow about them. It was a life-changing moment for me.

Favorite Recordings: Stevie Wonder’s “Songs In The Key Of Life”; John Coltrane’s “A Love Supreme”; “Kind of Blue”; Cannonball and Coltrane; Chick Corea’s “Three Quartets”’ Leonard Bernstein conducting Beethoven’s Seventh; Joe Henderson’s “Lush Life: the Music of Billy Strayhorn”; Thelonius Monk and Johnny Griffin; “Thelonius in Action” and Live vocalists; everything by Earth Wind and Fire; my absolute favorite is “The Gene Harris Trio Plus One.” Gene’s wife Janie gave me a copy of that on CD signed by Gene for my birthday; she didn’t realize that I had already worn out two tapes of the same album.

Discography: As a sideman: Ellen Whyte’s “Four Way Stop,” Stan Bock’s “Of Fathers and Sons,” Lily Wilde’s 2001 release, “Insect Ball,” Solomon Douglas’s “Live at the Legion,” and Solomon and I just recorded a new quintet CD; and a new one with Linda Lee Michelet. As a leader: The Pete Petersen Quartet: “Silver Lining,” 1997; Porkpie: “Hats Off,” 2004, and Pete Petersen & the Porkpie Septet: “Keep Your Hat On,” 2007.

Gigs: A new monthly series one Thursday a month with my septet at Tony Starlight’s, featuring a different guest vocalist each month; Wilf’s, October 10-22; Trail’s End Saloon, 10-16 w/Ellen Whyte Band; and West Coast tour with singer Kim Massie in November.

Future plans: I want to continue to do more festivals and travel with the Septet and write more arrangements. I also want to do more jazz with a small group, really stretch out and have fun with it. There are so many great players in Portland, this is really a musically rich area, and I want to get a chance to play with some of the cats I haven’t played with yet.

Other: I think the goal of every musician should be to make people feel something. Music is an emotive art form, a way for the musician to have a conversation using notes instead of words.

-- by Rita Rega


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