Following the sad death of Chris de Saram in August 2018, Pete Rosser is taking over as Promoter for Wakefield Jazz, booking the bands and presenting the gigs. Pete has been a freelance musician for over thirty years, surviving through music in a wide range of activities – jazz pianist, tango accordionist, composer, songwriter, teacher, workshop/choir leader, ABRSM examiner, busker. He lived in Sheffield in the 1980s as a student, and recently returned to Yorkshire after 25 years in Stroud, drawn by the magnetic pull of Wakefield’s many attractions – the Sculpture Park, the rhubarb, the jazz club and the Agbrigg nightlife.
We asked him ten tricky questions about jazz:
1) First experience of jazz?
My dad used to take me to the Trumpet pub in Bilston (near Wolverhampton) as a teenager, to counter the effect of too much classical piano – I remember Reg Keirle singing Fats Waller songs, and Tommy Burton’s Sporting House Quartet, and risqué Black Country jokes going over my head.
2) First experience of Wakefield Jazz?
I played here in the late 80s, with Big Sun (featuring Dave Blackmore and Sean Randle) – we were promoting ourselves as “the young lions of Sheffield Jazz”, and made it as far as Wakefield, Hull and Grimsby, plus a brief Yorkshire TV slot, before dispersing across the UK.
3) Best experience at Wakefield Jazz?
There was a stunning gig here this spring, with Nikki Iles’ Printmakers, featuring Norma Winstone singing – joyous musicianship and communication.
4) Favourite (dead) jazz musician?
Thelonious Monk has always been the one for me, with his unique tunes, and provocative piano prodding – always music to engage with and be energised by, never a background lifestyle accessory!
5) Three favourite (living) jazz musicians?
Henry Threadgill (sax/flute/composition) – Mary Halvorson (guitar) – Django Bates (piano) – no reasons, just listen to them. When they’ve all played at Wakefield Sports Club, then I can retire.
6) Favourite jazz gig?
There were some astonishing gigs at the Leadmill in Sheffield in the 80s (and at Leeds Trades Club) – if I had to pick one, then Lester Bowie’s Brass Fantasy at the Leadmill, featuring Steve Turre on trombone and Bob Stewart on tuba – classic pop tunes, anarchic horns and whistles.
7) Hopes for Wakefield Jazz? So many!
To keep going (33 years of Friday night jazz and counting); to carry on supporting the best of British contemporary jazz; to keep the audience and to build it (NB new generous concessions for under-25s!); to build a jazz (and creative music) community in Wakefield, with workshops, choirs, links to Wakefield Big Band and other organisations; and to keep on building the unsung and unseen Wakefield Jazz team that gives up its time to make these gigs happen.
8) Three favourite jazz albums?
John Coltrane – A Love Supreme; Marilyn Crispell – Gaia; Trevor Watts’ Moiré Music – again, no reasons, just listen.
9) What is jazz?
Jazz is about the individual and the collective, about rhythm and improvisation, about listening, about play, about trusting the musicians and trusting the audience, about getting it wrong until it sounds right, about the sound of surprise and freedom and liberation – within a structure! Jazz is about learning from history to build an unknown better future. Jazz is about a group of musicians stretching their own individual skills to the limit, but only becoming greater by working with, playing with, communicating with other musicians and with a willing audience. Jazz time is always now, but not always 10 to 10!
10) Any other business?
Even if you (think you) don’t like jazz, remember there’s always a raffle at Wakefield Jazz, and a bookstall, and food before the gigs (and a bar of course). And you can bring your knitting, or your sketchpad, or a crossword. The jazz will welcome you regardless…