With no rehearsals, gigs or studio sessions right now, NYJO has been using the lockdown period to provide professional development opportunities for our young professionals.
For the last month, Head of Professional Development, Roger Wilson, has introduced a range of industry experts to members of our Jazz Orchestra and Jazz Exchange. Whether it’s marketing, promotion, tax or funding, each speaker brings a unique set of insights and experiences ideally suited for contemporary musicians at the onset of their careers.
We (virtually) caught up with Saxophonist, doubler, arranger, broadcaster and band leader Pete Long for a session on the Big Band saxophone section, playing lead alto, and the value of doubling.
How old were you when you started playing the saxophone? What made you chose it?
I’d have been thirteen when I started playing sax. It was my mum’s Glenn Miller record that got me into music, along with John Williams’ soundtrack for Star Wars. I chose the sax because I was already learning flute, and I wanted to play ‘In the Mood’!
What do you think is the role of the saxophone section in a big band?
Whatever idiom you’re playing, the role of the sax is, at its root, to be part of the larger three-way team of saxes, trombones and trumpets.
As an educator, what are the most important lessons you try to pass on to young musicians?
The single most important lesson I try and pass on is that a musician has to feel in charge of the music emanating from their instrument. Many students feel that playing is a kind of sonic roulette with good luck days and bad luck days. What has to happen is that the brain has to take on the responsibility and therefore the freedom for every sound.
You have been playing in bands your whole career. What have you missed the most about playing with others during lockdown?
To be honest, I’ve not missed the driving, the late nights and the emails! I was about to buy a house, so I’m incredibly lucky that I’ve got sufficient funds in the form of a house deposit to see me through this. This has meant that I’ve treated the lockdown as a kind of sabbatical, working daily on my instrumental, arranging and studio skills.
Pete has enjoyed a stellar career as Saxophonist, doubler, arranger, broadcaster and band leader. He’s worked with many of the leading lights in jazz, pop and world music. Pete has worked with a host of musical A listers as a member of the Jools Holland Rhythm and Blues Orchestra. He’s also enjoyed a successful career as an in-demand freelance musician with a portfolio of work including the Stereophonics, Dr John’s UK band and a busy freelance career in London’s West End. As a band leader his award-winning bands, Echoes of Ellington, 9;20 Deluxe and Gillespiana have wowed audiences everywhere.
If you want to know more about Pete and his career you can find his website here.
We’d like to thank Pete for spending the time to connect with us and hope to see him again soon!