The Pete Cater Big Band earned top honors among larger groups last year in the annual Post Office–sponsored British Jazz Awards competition. If you’d like to know why, simply listen to Upswing!, the band’s second album and first on the Vocalion label. From pianist Matt O’Regan’s breezy introduction to his splendid arrangement of Jerome Kern’s “The Song Is You” to the last deeply–grooved measures of guitarist Dave Stryker’s “Nomad,” drummer Cater’s hard–working crew swings as powerfully and as often as a big band should. Little wonder, given the fact that several of its members are alumni of England’s marvelous National Youth Jazz Orchestra (NYJO). For a big–band musician, no other credentials need be submitted. Cater, who counts such Jazz greats as Chick Webb, Gene Krupa, Buddy Rich and Mel Lewis among his role models, is a superb time–keeper (with brushes or sticks) and an excellent soloist as well, but the band is so well–stocked with outstanding improvisers that he shines the spotlight on himself only on Miles Davis’ “All Blues,” Martin Williams’ tailor–made “King Size Skins” and (more briefly) “The Song Is You.” Alto Scott Garland (“The Song Is You,” “Angel Eyes,” Donald Brown’s “Phineas”) is the most frequently heard soloist, with velvet–toned trombonist Barnaby Dickinson featured on Vernon Duke’s “Autumn in New York” and dazzling young tenor Ben Castle on Bobby Troup’s “The Meaning of the Blues.” Others heard to good advantage are tenors Simon Hayson and Pete Wareham, bassist Dave Jones, flugel Ollie Preece, baritone Bob McKay, alto Paul Fawcus and trombonist Liam Kirkman (who doubles on “electronic valve instrument” on “Nomad”). Cater sums up his musical philosophy this way: “Introspection and elitism have no place in what we do; it’s present–day straight–ahead music. We run on energy, precision, excitement and damned hard work. You don’t have to be a purist or a connoisseur to get our message loud and clear.” Loud and clear is precisely what you get on Upswing! — with an ample helping of the energy, precision and excitement alluded to by Cater. In short, this is an album that should be in every big-band enthusiast's music library (as should Playing with Fire, the PCBB's maiden voyage on Jazzizit Records, No. 9812).
Personnel: Pete Cater, drums, leader; Andy Cuss, Darren Wiles, Oliver Preece, Henry Collins, trumpets; Scott Garland, Paul Fawcus, Simon Hayson, Pete Wareham, Bob McKay, reeds; Liam Kirkman, Barnaby Dickinson, Adrian Lane, Adrian Hallowell, trombones; Matt O