I’ve had an interesting couple of weeks playing double bass. This started with an evening at the Bristol Bass Club which is run by top double bass soloist, educater and music publisher David Heyes and Bristol based bassist Ben Groenvelt. I was one of about 14 double bass players at various levels of playing ability going through a pretty full on session of technique developing exercises and playing several pieces for massed bass ensemble. These included the “Last Poppy” written by David. The evening finished with a short concert in which a couple of players presented pieces: Jim Rintoul who I had travelled with played a movement from a Frank Proto piece “1963” which he is working on for his diploma; Alex played a Teppo Hauta-aho composition and the evening finished with a fantastic odd time signature duet by David and Ben. The group meets about once a month and the low annual subscription makes it very reasonable value for a regular 3 hours of expert instruction and inspiration. David is passionate about teaching double bass and about developing and promoting the repertoire. The group is planning a performance sometime in February in Bristol which hopefully I will be able to take part in.
This was followed last weekend by final rehearsals and concert with the EMG Symphony Orchestra in Exeter Cathedral. We were playing a challenging programme of Russian music: Rachmaninov’s 2nd Symphony, Shostakovich’s 2nd piano concerto with brilliant Romanian soloist Alexandra Dariescu and Kabalevsky’s Colas Breugnon Overture. The lead up to this concert had been somewhat unusual in that some of the earlier rehearsals had been lead by new associate conductor Tony Hindley and in fact Tony conducted the Kabalevsky at the concert. Regular musical director Marion Wood was back for the last few rehearsals but it seemed to come down to the final rehearsals on the Friday evening and Saturday morning of concert day itself before things really started to fall into place. Those last two rehearsals were in the cathedral and it was distinctly chilly as it was for the concert itself so I was glad of a thermal vest and several members of the orchestra had cleverly added fleeces to their concert garb. One of the double bassists was wearing fingerless gloves and I would have liked a pair myself. Another member of the bass section was taken ill before the concert so we were down to four in the section for the final performance and at one point I thought I might have to switch last minute from bottom to top part in the divisi sections. In the end the powers that be decided it was more important to have a beefy bottom part and one of our stronger players was left to take the top part by herself. The cathedral was packed out (though no warmer) and the performance went really well. There are some very enjoyable sections in the Rachmaninov for the bass section: passages of long bowed notes which compared to other sections are relatively easy as long as you can hear yourself to play in tune. With the woodwind on a platform directly behind us and the barrel of several of the instruments quite close to the back of my head this isn’t guaranteed! Nevertheless, by placing my ear on the edge of the fretboard I was able to hear (or was it feel?) the pitch sufficiently well. The bass section ended up getting a mention in dispatches so we seem to have managed OK. Our next concert is Britten’s War Requiem in April, again in the cathedral and this will be our last concert under the direction of exceptionally talented musical director Marion Wood.
The last thing was sitting in with the East Devon Folk Orchestra, a 40 or so strong group of strings woodwind, guitars and accordians playing traditional English tunes. The tunes were all in one of a couple of easy keys and quite short but I can’t say I’m really used to playing in time signatures like 9/8 and I was glad that there was another double bass player there who has been playing the repertoire for the last 15 years! Definitely good for my pizzicato playing and for my reading skills so I may well be back there again in the new year.
Sorry in advance to the non saxophone Anoraks for this somewhat specialist post, but I’d like to give a shout out for U.S. mouthpiece maker Phil Engleman. I’ve just taken delivery of an Aurora, one of his alto saxophone mouthpieces which he has made for me to replace my Otto Link Tone Edge 7*. I’m generally not one for chopping and changing reeds and mouthpieces or any other part of the gear. I generally adhere to the principle that the best mouthpiece for you is the one that you already own and that if you keep swapping about, you never really develop the sound that you want. In my experience it takes months and months to adapt the embouchure to a new mouthpiece or to a new horn and it’s particular idiosyncracies. But in this case after playing the link for several years and finding that the extreme upper register and the very lowest notes on my mark VII didn’t really sing, I thought I’d take a punt. For a number of years I had used the alto mainly for teaching but increasingly I have been taking it out on gigs and enjoying the new voice it has been adding to my sound: it seemed about time to develop that sound further particularly as I always get good feedback from audiences about my alto playing.
It wasn’t a complete shot in the dark however as Phil has previously made me a mouthpiece for my tenor, his Eclipse model, again to replace a Link and that transformed my sound. In particular it really opened up the altissimo register for me. Anyway after a pretty straightforward discussion of tip openings, existing limitations with the Link and Phil listening to a few clips of the sort of sound I prefer and some of my own clips he went ahead and made the piece. It arrived on Friday morning and it was immediately obvious that it is a much more free blowing and lively piece than the Link. It has much less resistance and the bottom end is already much fatter and richer and the upper register has also opened out. It feels faster too if that makes sense: it takes less effort to get a sound so my inclination is to really go for it. Perhaps not completely wise, but I decided to take it on that night’s gig with my Latin jazz quartet Lightflight. There are a couple of alto tunes in each set. Despite not really having settled on a tuning position, I thought the new mouthpiece sounded great, if a little wild. I have to learn to stop expecting the resistance I was getting from the Link and just blow less hard. By the time I’d taught a lesson on it the following morning and taken it out on another Lightflight gig that evening I felt I was pretty much in control and things can only get better from now on. So a good decision and there’s an Otto Link Tone Edge 7* ebonite mouthpiece up for sale if anyone is interested!
My Latin jazz quartet Pete Canter’s Lightflight soon starts a series of four dates organised through the Devon based rural touring scheme Villages in Action. VIA takes acts into village halls and similar community buildings in rural Devon, each village bidding for acts from a menu offered twice a year. The gigs are not only an opportunity for rural communities to enjoy touring acts of all sorts, but are also great social events bringing people together for an evening of eating, drinking, socialising and watching the acts.
This is the second VIA tour for Lightflight and our dates are Rattery on 16th Oct, Northleigh on 17th Oct, Bradninch on 13th Nov and Sampford Courtenay on 14th Nov. Tickets are available locally for all these gigs.
I will be on saxophone and congas for these gigs so I’m starting to put in some practise sessions on the congas to toughen up my hands. I will be joined by keys wizard Matt Johns and for most of the gigs by Jim Rintoul on double bass. Valere Speranza deps for Jim on the last date. The drum chair is divided between Jim Newton on the first two dates and Gary Evans on the last two. We will be playing seriously groovy Latin Jazz mixing some great standards with my own originals such as soprano sax tunes Pairs and Lightflight from my last album.
These gigs are always warmly received and the band has a blast so I’m really looking forward to them.
Three jazz gigs this week kicking off tonight with my trio at the Clifford Arms in Shaldon near Teignmouth from 8.30pm. I’ll be on alto and tenor sax along with a top rhythm section of Matt Johns on keys and Jim Rintoul on double bass. Free entry and special jazz night menu available at this regular Monday night jazz slot.
On Thursday I’m hosting the Moon Jazz & Blues Club in Crediton, one of several local Devon jazz clubs which have replicated the very successful format which I developed at the Bridge Jazz Club in Exeter: opening set from a house band followed by jam session. I am with my Latin jazz outfit Lightflight so I will be on sax & congas with Matt Johns keys, Jim Rintoul bass and Gary Evans drums. This is a seriously groovy Latin jazz quartet. Doors open at 8pm and entry is only £4 or just £3 for jammers.
Finally, on Saturday I’m back with old buddy James Shipway playing a duo for the late shift at the Grapevine in Exmouth. James is a classy jazz guitarist and we have been playing together on and off since I first moved to Devon in 2001. We are on 10pm til’ midnight and it’s free entrance. Full details of these and more gigs at www.petecanter.com/gigs
I have a cluster of gigs this holiday starting tonight when my trio will be at the City Gate Hotel in Exeter. I will be with fab pianist Tom Unwin and fine double bassist Valere Speranza playing in the conservatory from 7.30pm. This is always a very enjoyable gig. The acoustics are great; the food is good; the real ales are top quality and you can listen from the lovely garden if you like to sit outside.
On Saturday afternoon my Latin jazz quartet Lightflight is at Double Locks Inn for their canal side Cider Festival. I will be joined by the amazing Matt Johns on keys, Valere Speranza on bass and the excellent Jim Newton on drums. I will be playing alto and tenor sax and also congas on this one. Expect melodic and extremely groovy Latin Jazz originals and standards. We are on 2-4.30pm.
On Monday I am at Artigiano in Exeter High St from 7.30pm with the Art House Trio featuring James Clemas on vox and keys and Jim Rintoul on double bass. Our set includes some great bebop heads in unison on tenor sax and male voice which is a wonderful combination.
On Wednesday I am hosting the Bridge Jazz Club at Exeter Phoenix with an excellent rhythm section of Matt Johns keys, Jim Rintoul, double bass and Gary Evans drums. The opening set will be followed by the usual jam session. I think I’m going to play alto on this one for a change. The club, which meets on the first Wednesday each month has been really well attended this year and I’m happy to announce that the club will continue at Exeter Phoenix throughout 2016. Music starts at 8.30pm. Pay on the door £6 or £4 for jam participants including a free raffle.
My Latin jazz quartet Lightflight has quite a few gigs coming up in the next few weeks and months with bookings in the diary through until next February. We are on Dartmoor this Saturday (22nd Aug) playing at the Kings Arms in South Zeal, an outdoor gig and then again the following week (29th Aug) at the Double Locks Cider Festival on the Exeter canal banks.
The band plays accessible, melodic and seriously groovy Latin Jazz originals and standards. The regular line up is myself on saxes and congas, the amazing Matt Johns on keys, Jim Rintoul on double bass and either Gary Evans or Jim Newton on drums. Having said that, Valere Speranza will be filling the bass chair at Double Locks and Ron Jones will be on kit this Saturday in South Zeal.
In the autumn Lightflight has a tour of Devon village halls organised by rural touring scheme Villages in Action with dates in Rattery, Northleigh, Bradninch and Sampford Courtenay during October and November. These gigs have local ticketing arrangements and details will go up on my gig diary as I get them. These are always great gigs with good audiences and very special atmospheres.
In 2016 Lightflight is booked to play gigs at Tuckers Jazz Club near Axminster and at Cossington Village Hall near Bridgewater, both gigs in February. The Lightflight line up is also the house band for two jazz clubs jam sessions in September. We will be doing the opening set then hosting the jam session at the Bridge Jazz Club at Exeter Phoenix on 2nd Sept and then again at the Moon Jazz & Blues Club in Crediton on 17th Sept. These gigs are an opportunity to get a flavour of how the band sounds and for players to sit in and feel the great groove laid down by the Lightflight rhythm section.
My quartet album also called Lightflight will be on sale at all these gigs. The album of my original tunes was recorded under the name of the Pete Canter Quartet but it was the strong Latin Jazz influence in the writing and the recording that gave me the idea to start the Latin Jazz band with the name Lightflight after one of the soprano sax tracks.
Have been getting back into the swing of things after a couple of weeks on holiday in France – after not playing at all for two weeks, I’ve done the usual: managed to develop an infected lip during re-entry. This is the result of trying to play too much too soon on tender lips and also picking up where I left off with used reeds which have been left to fester for a couple of weeks. Seems to be on the mend now and practising much less for a day or two does have the effect of making me really enjoy it when I do play, so I’m looking forward to tonight’s gig at the City Gate Hotel in Exeter with James Clemas on keys and old pal Andy Tunbridge on double bass. Andy and I first played together during the 1980s after meeting at pianist Howard Riley’s Saturday morning jazz workshop at Goldsmiths. He was a guitarist then but took up double bass instead: a good move I think. We are in the conservatory from 7.30pm tonight and you can listen from the garden if it’s fine (though no matter what the weather it doesn’t seem to deter some hardy types or those despertate for a fag!).
Next Wednesday 5th August is Bridge Jazz Club night at Exeter Phoenix where this month I will be joined in the house band by Tom Unwin on keys, Ron Phelan on double bass and Coach York on drums. I’ve been trying to get Tom to come and play at the club for a year or two now but club night has always clashed with a jazz workshop he runs on Wednesday evenings. Strangely, I’ve never played with him in any other context either since I moved to Devon in 2001 and haven’t heard him play with anyone else either, so it will be interesting. This is a great rhythm section and as always, the second half is a jam session so local jazz musicians or those passing through Exeter can get to play with them! Music starts at 8.30pm in the Voodoo Lounge and entry on the door is £6 or just £4 for jammers including a free raffle.
On Sunday 9th August I’m with piano wizard Matt Johns at the Royal Oak in Ashburton, a free afternoon (2pm to 4pm) of duo jazz. You can also get a Sunday roast or just have a pint. Well done to Ashburton’s Andy Williamson for organising these weekly gigs with landlord Edric. I have another duo gig on Saturday 15th August, this time with guitarist James Shipway, doing the late shift (10pm to midnight) at The Grapevine in Exmouth. This gig, like my City Gate residency and the Bridge Jazz Club has turned out to be another regular monthly gig for me. Fingers crossed it continues as long as the other two!
My latin jazz outfit Lightflight gets two airings this month, first at the Kings Arms in South Zeal on Saturday 22nd August, and then again at the Double Locks Inn on Saturday 29th August, a canalside event for their cider festival. At the first of these I will be with Matt Johns on keys, Jim Rintoul on bass and Ronnie Jones on drums & percussion while at the latter Valere Speranza will be on bass and Jim Newton will be on drums. Both are free events and Lightflight will be playing some seriously groovy latin jazz, a mix of standards and my originals. I play congas as well as sax on these gigs so need to start practising soon or I will be ending up with sore hands as well as sore lips. In between these two Lightflight gigs, I will be back at the City Gate again on Friday 28th August, though I haven’t got around to booking a band yet. Details of all these gigs on my website.
On the double bass front, it’s the summer recess from EMG Symphony Orchestra so time to do some serious work on technique and reading. The orchestra has been given the sad news that we are losing our amazing conductor Marion Wood next year so just two more concerts to go under her direction. Both of these are in Exeter Cathedral: a concert of Russian music in November and Britten’s War Requiem in April and both should be fantastic. I’ve also been composing a short piece for solo double bass for Teppo Fest 2016, a celebration of Finnish bass player and composer Teppo Hauta-aho’s 75th birthday. Organiser David Heyes has commisioned 75 1-minute pieces to be played at the weekend festival in May next year. The tricky bit is getting the Finnish translation of the title correct; don’t want to insult anyone! It’s just about finished. I just need to go through the legato sections deciding how I want the bowing.