1 June 2016

Peter Fraize Interview

American saxophonist Peter Fraize will be staying in Brighton for a few weeks in June and July and will be playing gigs at various venues (see below). Peter is a saxophonist, composer and teacher based in Washington DC. He has been a distinct voice in the jazz world for nearly three decades and is known for his impassioned playing, intricate and melodic writing. He also crosses musical boundaries drawing from deep within the jazz tradition to exploratory free improvisation to contemporary pop and rock music. Terry Seabrook who will be playing organ on some of the gigs with him talked to Peter on Skype recently. 

How did you start out playing Peter?

    “I grew up in Washington and although I always wanted to be a jazz player I had read that Phil Woods had gone to Juilliard all the guys like Herbie Hancock all went through classical music schools as there were no jazz programmes in those days. I was pretty accomplished as a classical player by the end of high school and enjoyed playing the repertoire and wanted to get the instrument together and so went to study at New England Conservatory. I was playing all the classical stuff on alto and the jazz on tenor (keeping them compartmentalised) at least until later on when I started to play more jazz on alto. I then went to study with Dutch Saxophonist Leo van Oostram at The Hague Conservatory and stayed in Holland for 4 years where I got into the free scene.”

How do you compare the music scene in USA to Europe?

    “There are a lot more opportunities in Europe for work. There are little jazz clubs everywhere in little towns and a much more enthusiastic response to it. In the States it is mainly clustered around the coasts but thin in other parts – the clubs here are struggling (in USA) and more people are vying to get gigs.”

And then you got into teaching?

    “When I came back to Washington I worked in a record store on the campus of George Washington University where there was a small music department. While playing in bands some of the guys in my band were at the University and that was my connection. The teaching post enabled me to play more of my own music and avoid the Tuxedo gigs. But the department gets smaller every year as they cut things back. Around this time I was also very involved too with a rock band called The Empties (playing sax) which lasted for about 10 years.”

What are your main projects currently?

    “I have the organ band with Gregg Hanza and a trio but I’m doing a quartet-quintet record right now.”

Do you think that on the possibility of a Trump presidency will have any particular impact on the jazz community?

    “Even the past elections of Reagan and Bush left some of us with our mouths hanging open. But Trump is even managing to turn the right against the right and whip things up into a frenzy. How that will impinge on the jazz community is hard to say but I know that when George W. Bush came to the presidency there were a lot more country gigs in DC than before. Obama has been a little better for the jazz scene as was Clinton.”

You have said “jazz is not dead- it’s just stopped returning your calls”. What is the message here?

    “It’s all about the ‘jazz is dead’ stories that keep popping up and the people who keep saying ‘jazz needs to be saved’. For me jazz is moving on and you might be waiting for everyone to put on their skinny ties and berets and go down and play bebop (and there are a lot of people doing that) but the music has moved on. Jazz is just a word and other terms have been proposed like American Classical Music but that sounds to me like it has an inferiority complex. So we might just as well stick with jazz.”

So sticking to jazz and playing around Sussex Peter will be playing:


Mon. 20th June – Snowdrop Inn, Lewes


Thurs. 23rd June – Bristol Bar, Brighton


Fri. 24th June- Steam Packet, Littlehampton


Sat 25th – Tues. 28th June – in London


Tues. 28th June – Hare and Hounds, Worthing


Fri. 1st  July – The Verdict, Brighton


Sat 2nd July – Love Supreme Festival


And you can hear Peter playing at www.peterfraize.com

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