INTERVIEW: The Riviera Quartet | NARC. | Reliably Informed | Music and Creative Arts News for Newcastle and the North East

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Meeting The Riviera Quartet’s Pete Tanton for a coffee in a sun-blessed Bar Loco, I was amazed our paths had never crossed, despite both being Jazz Cafe patrons. He recalls his first introduction to the late, great, Keith Crombie back in the late 90s. “I went along and paid my £3 to get in and got my little ticket and this old guy with a beard comes up and asks what I’m going to have to eat and I’m like ‘no man, that’s cool I’m just here to play and have a drink’ and he bellowed ‘what are going to have to eat and I was like ‘woah! Okay’.” Quite the introduction for the Alabamian.

Having been born and raised a stone’s throw from Muscle Shoals, you might expect Pete to be rooted in Aretha Franklin or Otis Redding, but not so. “In the part of Alabama I came from all the kids listened to top 40 radio, I was the only kid in my class listening to Miles Davis, Dizzy Gillespie and Horace Silver.” I am talking to a through and through jazzman then.

In fact, Pete studied jazz at the University of Tennessee, where he was coached by such luminaries as Jerry Coker (who played for Woody Herman) and Donald Brown (Art Blakey’s Jazz Messengers) “I was a trumpet player, that’s what I was gonna be, that didn’t marry well with my Dad who’s a physicist, I came from a family of nine-fivers.”

the thing people don’t like about improvised music is that despite being beautifully executed, beautifully recorded, sounding fantastic, having a great mix, with fantastic musicianship it’s almost white noise because it’s complex for the sake of complexity

Despite this, after a brief flirtation with the caff ending in ’99, it wasn’t until Michael Lamb asked him to sit in with his Strictly Smoking Big Band in 2008 that he put down the pen (he has published three novels to date) and picked up the trumpet again – on orders from a higher being. “My wife told me I had to get some social interaction.” From here he joined David Carnegie’s Extreme Measures where he met guitarist Mark Williams, and through him drummer Russ Morgan and John Pope (bass).

These guys are top musicians, and together they decided to record an album, all contributing songs aiming to be ‘music you can listen to over and over again’. Pete expands on this: “I want to produce something that takes you to a happy place…the thing people don’t like about improvised music is that despite being beautifully executed, beautifully recorded, sounding fantastic, having a great mix, with fantastic musicianship it’s almost white noise because it’s complex for the sake of complexity. You can’t listen to it over again, you want something you can take with you, and I think that’s from my roots as a songwriter rather than a jazz composer.” The Riviera Quartet’s debut album ticks all these boxes.

Pete’s pretty optimistic about the future of jazz in his adopted home town. “There’s lots of stimulating stuff going on. We’ve got places like the Jazz Co-op at The Globe and Jazz North East, there are bodies that are there and importantly there are young people playing, so it’s not the old guys who keep talking about how they did it in the 50s. It’s a more attractive prospect for new listeners, I think the challenge for Newcastle is to develop more venues and manage them. There’s enough jazz work to keep people busy.”

The Riviera Quartet launch their album at the Jazz Café, Newcastle on Thursday 15th March.

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