It all goes back to year 1965. Spencer Davis Group was recording a single for the label Phillips Germany after having released its number one hit “Keep on Running”. Alongside the guitarist and a former German teacher Spencer Davis, Steve Winwood and his older brother Muff also the upcoming drummer Pete York was a member of the band. The producer of the session was Siggi Loch. “We’ve been friends ever since,” Pete York, who turned 70 in August, reminisces. “Maybe it is Siggi’s birthday present that I got the chance to release this album on ACT.”
The present is called „Basiecally Speaking“. As you might guess due to the title, the album is all about Count Basie. York explains: “Basie was almost my first connection with jazz after Louis Armstrong. When I was 15, my mother took me to see his concert. It was unforgettable, particularly due to his energetic drummer Sonny Payne. His big band had such power and dynamics. Basie used the whole language of music and was famous for his musical humour as well as for his economic way of playing the piano. Every note mattered and was swinging. I have tried to include all these things in my music. Most of all, I learnt from Basie what not to play.”
Not only in this aspect is Pete York unique – there are not many drummers who can be compared with the Briton in diversity and ingenuity. York, who has been living in Bavaria since 1984, became famous in the 60s with the Spencer Davis Group and with The World’s Smallest Big Band – a duo with Eddie Hardin. Boundaries between genres have never been important to him – he has played with jazz musicians, such as Chris Barber and Klaus Doldinger, blues stars like Dr. John and rockers including recently the deceased keyboardist Jon Lord from Deep Purple and songwriter Konstantin Wecker. For the German comedian and jazz musician Helge Schneider York does not only hold the drumsticks but even recently acted in one of his films. He also created and appeared in the TV series “Super Drumming” with a number of prominent drummer colleagues. Moreover, York has also got talent as an entertainer with British humour. He once wrote TV comedy scripts alongside members of Monty Python.
York’s openness, relaxed attitude and excellent entertainment qualities coincide with Siggi Loch’s understanding of music. Love for tradition is also important for both. “A lot of young musicians are not acquainted with the history of jazz. You can’t have a future without knowing and honouring the past,” says Siggi Loch. This was the starting point for “Basiecally Speaking”.
In spring Loch received the Škoda Lifetime Achievement Award on the Jazzahead fair in Bremen. He took the prize money, doubled it and invested it into a project in which young upcoming musicians would play together with an experienced star. And who would better fit the role of the leader and mentor than Pete York.
That is why Pete York does not play with „old cats“ on „Basiecally Speaking“ but rather with „Young Friends“. First of all, there is Gábor Bolla, the newest ACT star on saxophone. “That was Siggi’s idea, since I didn’t know him before. I was all the more amazed how extremely well Gabor plays the high-power tenor saxophone that was also very important in Basie’s band, with musicians such as Lester Young, Hershel Evans or Eddie “Lockjaw” Davis. For a drummer it is exciting that Gabor can play with rhythmic accuracy at high tempos, relax over the medium tempos and be beautiful on ballads . Andi Kissenbeck, the specialist for groovy Hammond organ, whom York had already met, received an important role on the project. “If you don’t have a brass section, Hammond organ is almost the only alternative. I’ve played with many organists, such as Wild Bill Davis and with rock colleagues including Brian Auger, so I can recognise and appreciate how wonderfully Andi plays.” And finally, there is Torsten Goods, who has shown on his ACT albums “Irish Heart” and “1980” that he plays the classic jazz guitar with unique technical brilliance and style. He can play that all-important Freddie Green rhythm guitar, change to deliver an astonishing solo or punch up an ensemble and he also has a wonderful swinging voice that can be heard on “Gee Baby”.
This session is a milestone in the varied career of Pete York. “I think I’ve been heard on around 200 albums in the last 50 years and now I’ve come back to my first love, the happy swing of Count Basie. What really knocks me out, apart from Siggi wanting me to do this at all, is the way the Young Friends just dived into this project and made such a great sound right off the bat. With guys like these around me I feel as young as they are.
“Basie’s old hits, such as “Cute”, “Jumpin’ At The Woodside” and “Splanky”, are grooving and swinging, making “Basiecally Speaking” a true pleasure. Or, as York puts it in his funny Denglish when things go well together: “Uh, what a Geschmack!” (promotion text)
In other words: This is one of the best jazz-album Pete Mr. Superdumming York ever recorded !
Gabor Bolla (saxophone)
Torsten Goods (guitar, vocals)
Andreas Kissenbeck (organ)
Pete York (drums, vocals)
Wolfgang Schmid (bass on 01.)
01. Groovin’ For Basie (York/Goods/Bolla/Kissenbeck/Schmid) 3.36
02. Tickle Toe (Young) 3.24
03. Jumpin At The Woodside (Basie) 4.11
04. Splanky (Hefti) 5.01
05. Moten Swing ( Benny Moten/Buster Moten) 4.30
06 Flip, Flop And Fly (Calhoun/Turner) 3.32
07. Lil’ Darling (Hefti) 5.31
08. Shiney Stockings (Foster/Hendricks) 5.41
09. Cute (Hefti) 04.02
10 Gee Baby Ain’t I Good To You (Redman/Razaf) 3.21
11 Lester Leaps In (Young) 3.48
12 Broadway (Bird/McRae/Woode) 3.53
13. Roll ‘Em Pete (Johnson/Turner) 2.14
* (coming soon)