Pete Cater is arguably Great Britain's foremost big-band drummer, and The Right Time is yet another albumthis would be the third, and second on Vocalionof swinging, straight-ahead jazz by Cater and his ebullient ensemble from across the pond. As for the title, it should go without saying that any time is the right time to kick back and enjoy a pleasurable hour of top-of-the-line music by one of the UK's most proficient bands.
Cater's unequivocal approach, modeled after the standard set by Basie, Herman, Buddy Rich and other giants of the genre, is clear from the outset as he and the ensemble (abetted by arranger Kevin Wedrychowski) transform Don Raye/Gene DePaul's poignant ballad "You Don't Know What Love Is into a rip-roaring barn-burner that gleams and smolders behind fiery solos by alto Sam Mayne and trumpeter Henry Collins. One scarcely has time to catch a breath before Matt Wates' groovy "Getting There, underscored by precise ensemble work and shapely solos by pianist Matt O'Regan and tenor Simon Savage, takes it away again.
Cater encourages his sidemen to compose and arrangeand in the case of Frank Griffith (who doubles on tenor sax), that's a definite advantage, as Griffith not only wrote three of the album's more charismatic tunes ("Holland Park, "Antonia, "Take the Money and Run ) but adapted Oliver Nelson's ballad "Lancy Lynn for the ensemble and arranged Horace Silver's "Strollin' and the standard "Teach Me Tonight, on which his tenor plays a leading role. Completing the persuasive program are a brace of Wayne Shorter's more accessible themes, "Palladium and "Yes and No, Cedar Walton's durable "Firm Roots (indelibly introduced by O'Regan) and the muscular finale, "On Broadway.
That Cater has assembled a blue-chip band should come as no surprise, as several of its members are alumni of Bill Ashton's strenuous school of advanced musicology, otherwise known as the National Youth Jazz Orchestra, or NYJO. Those whose names I spotted (there may be others) are Mayne, O'Regan, trumpeters Darren Wiles and Oliver Preece, trombonists Barnaby Dickinson and Adrian Hallowell. Preece has solo space on "Firm Roots, Dickinson on "Yes and No. Alto Bob Martin (who played in Buddy Rich's band in the '70s) is showcased on "Lancy Lynn, trombonist Liam Kirkman on "Palladium and "Broadway.
As for Cater, BBC2 big-band authority Malcolm Laycock is quoted in Dave Gelly's admirable liner notes as saying that Pete reminds him most of Louie Bellson, and that's an altogether perceptive appraisal. Like Bellson, Cater has power to spare but knows when to ease back on the pedal and give the ensemble and soloists ample space to breathe. In other words, he balances power with tastefulness, which has long been Louie's stock in trade. And like Bellson, Cater supervises a spectacular big band that one must hear to appreciate.
Pete Cater: drums, leader; Sam Mayne, Bob Martin, Paul Fawcus (1,9,11,12): alto saxophone;
Frank Griffith, Simon Savage: tenor saxophone; Bob McKay: baritone saxophone; Darren
Wiles, Craig Wild, Oliver Preece, Henry Collins: trumpet; Liam Kirkman, Simon Walker, Barnaby
Dickinson, Adrian Hallowell: trombone; Matt O