October 27th, 2014 by Boisdale
Richard Pite has been working as Boisdaleâ€™s Director of Music since we first opened our doors 25 years ago. He talks to Jonathan Wingate about his favourite jazz artists, why he is more than happy to be known as â€˜the bastard love child of Ringo Starr and Gene Krupa,â€™ and why he finally decided to release his debut album at the age of 57.
Was jazz your thing from the start, or did you originally set out to play other musical genres as well?
I originally got interested in jazz because I had a good friend who played tuba in vintage jazz bands and he seemed to have an enormous amount of fun playing. When I was a teenager I developed a parallel admiration for early jazz as well as contemporary pop and rock. My dad bought me my first pop albums, Dance With The Shadows and A Hard Day’s Night 50 years ago, and I still love them.
You specialize in jazz music from the 20s, 30s and 40s. Do your tastes extend beyond that period?
I do love the jazz of the 20s, 30s and 40s more than anything else. Philip Larkin â€“ the best British poet of the 20th Century â€“ and I agreed on the difference between music of this period and all the later stuff. The former has joie de vivre and peps you up, and although some of the later stuff does that too, you have to search for it a little harder.
You have studied the techniques of the early jazz drummers in almost forensic detail. How important is it to play in an authentic way?
It’s very important to me, but it depends on what you want to do with the earlier styles. If you are re-interpreting it with a contemporary twist, that’s fine, but if you’re saying this is how the music sounded if you went to a club on the South side of Chicago in 1932, it behoves you to get it right.Â You have to put that ride cymbal back in the bag, get rid of the hi-hat and kill the Vinnie Colaiuta licks.
Which drummers would you say have influenced you the most in terms of playing style, and what makes each of them unique?
Pete Long once called me â€˜the bastard love child of Ringo Starr and Gene Krupa,â€™ and I can’t think of a nicer compliment.Â On stage Ringo looked like he had the best job in the world, whilst Charlie Watts looked like he’d rather be at home making a battleship out of matchsticks.
I can do a pretty good Gene Krupa, but I can’t get near my other idol, Buddy Rich, who was superhuman.Â Nobody comes close to him â€“ he was the fastest, most exciting, most musicalâ€¦the most most. There are drummers today who do tributes to him, but I wouldn’t dare.Â I can pull the same faces he did but none of his licks and tricks.
Who would you like to have played with, if you could go back in time?
I would have liked the drum chair in the Count Basie Band from 1950 – when he put his big band together again – up until when he died in 1984. Basieâ€™s music puts a smile on your face and should ideally be listened to in a Cadillac with the roof down, and if possible, with a blonde in the passenger seat.
Harold Land (currently playing with Tony Bennett) was fantastic, but Sonny Payne was undoubtedly my favourite Basie drummer, mainly because he was a showman. I love showmen â€“ theyâ€™re increasingly rare in the po-faced world of modern jazz.
If pressed and you had to pick five jazz albums everyone should listen to, what would they be?
Erroll Garner – Concert By The Sea
Jim Mullen Quartet â€“ String Theory
Miles Davis and Gil Evans – Miles Ahead
Richard Pite – Now We Are 57
Talking of which, we have to ask â€“ why did it take you this long to get around to recording your debut album?
I just fancied doing an album under my own name and I thought John Colianni, Philip Achille and Jim Mullen were a fine bunch of chaps to tag along with. I had a few quid in the bank and was in no rush to make my money back, so if it took 10 years to get rid of the first pressing that was fine. So, voila, my vanity project was born.
Tell us your favourite jazz joke.
Itâ€™s not a joke, but a great story about my grandma. When I was playing in a youth orchestra at the Royal Festival Hall in the mid-70s, my parents took my gran (who was in her 80s) to the concert, where I was battling through Holstâ€™s The Planets. After the show we stopped off at a fish and chip shop before dropping her home. The following day I asked her whether she had enjoyed the concert, to which she replied: â€˜Oh yes, it was a lovely piece of fish.â€™ I still smile to myself when I think about it.
To read more please go to the Richard Pite Interview Part 2
To book tickets to come along to any of our music events at Boisdale just visit our Tickets page.