Like many other musicians at this time of year the gig diary is a bit sparse with only a few dates in January. Looking ahead however there is plenty to look forward to: regular monthly gigs continuing here in Exeter at the ever popular Bridge Jazz Club and at my very enjoyable residency at the City Gate Hotel; bookings at several other local venues including Artigiano, the Oak in Ashburton and the Bay Horse in Totnes; jazz club dates at Tuckers in Axminster, CIC in Taunton and Swing Unlimited in Bournemouth; as well as dates in the Exeter Vibraphonic Festival and the promise of a slot in this year’s Teignmouth Jazz Festival.
These are of course my dates as a jazz saxophonist. I also have quite a few things coming up on the double bass playing front: Britten’s War Requiem with EMG Symphony Orchestra in Exeter Cathedral this April; a performance with the Bristol Bass Club in February; a solo performance of my own short bass piece Koivu ja Kataja at Teppo Fest in May; further concerts with EMG and the possibility of playing with the Devon Fiddlers Orchestra at Sidmouth Folk Festival in July, although this depends on the exact timing of the slot as I also have a wedding gig on sax in Torquay that day.
With all this ahead I’m glad I got down to it over Xmas and the start of the new year and did all the composing for the Vibraphonic gig: new music for cello and jazz trio and “Tubes” a 9 minute piece for alto flute & bass clarinet. That gig takes place at Exeter Phoenix on 9th March. Full details of this and the other gigs I’ve mentioned at www.petecanter.com/gigs
Just finished composing some new tunes and arranging a couple of my existing originals for cello and jazz trio. These will be performed in the Exeter Vibraphonic Festival at Exeter Phoenix on 9th March under the title “Sky” along with the first performance of a new piece I have written for alto flute and bass clarinet called “Tubes”.
The musicians will be Lucy Welsman on violoncello, Matt Johns on piano, Valere Speranza on double bass and myself on soprano sax. The duet will be played by Robert Stephenson on alto flute and John Welton on bass clarinet. The evening will also include a guided improvisation involving the larger group of musicians. Just as with my previous works in the area of guided improv, “Improvisation #49” explores the tension between total freedom, constraints and form.
The pieces for cello and jazz trio bring together elements of jazz, classical and folk music. I am pleased to be feeling the influences of the diverse music I have been involved with over the last 2-3 years. Much of this has come as a double bass player playing in a classical orchestra and with folk ensembles alongside my main work as a jazz saxophonist.
Putting together an evening of new music for the Vibraphonic Festival has become an annual event for me. Previous events have featured large improvising ensembles, free jazz and contemporary music influences. This year’s music is more jazz influenced, more structured with strong tunes and clear chord sequences but realises my aspiration to continue composing and presenting fresh new music.
The last tune was completed today on the last day of 2015 which feels good: we have a couple of months to do some rehearsing before the Vibraphonic gig, and I’m ready to take on the New Year’s busy schedule of jazz gigs, rehearsals, hussling gigs and promoting events like this one. The plan is to perform this set at other venues later in the year including at the Bridge Jazz Club in Exeter. It also occurs to me that this burst of creative activity has left me with enough material to record a new album, something at the top of my agenda for 2016.
I have recently finished mixing a DIY demo recording of the Art House Trio featuring James Clemas on keys & vocals, myself on tenor saxophone and Jim Rintoul on double bass. The trio plays swing, bebop and Latin Jazz and has been going down really well at our recent gigs at Artigiano here in Exeter. As well as exciting sax & vox bebop heads, the trio goes in for superimposing different heads on the same changes so for example How High the Moon becomes Ornithology and Four on Six morphs into Summertime. James has a great voice and he sounds rather like Chet Baker. He also impresses greatly when he sings along to his own keyboard solos note for note.
We recorded three tracks in my home studio and they have all come out really well. Listen to them on Soundcloud:
We are playing the first set at the Bridge Jazz Club at Exeter Phoenix on Wed 3rd Feb when we will be joined by top drummer Gary Evans. The Art House Trio will also be at other local venues so do watch out for us.
The Art House Trio can also be booked for private functions.
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