RIP Pete Saberton (1950-2012)

Pete Saberton. Photo Credit: Garry Corbett

The death is reported, in the early hours of this morning, of one of the most quietly influential, and most respected musicians in British jazz, pianist/composer Pete Saberton, after a battle against myeloma. He grew up in Sheffield as the youngest of four brothers, and studied classical piano at the Royal Northern College of Music. He was a cornerstone of the music, working and writing for the London Jazz Orchestra, and in groups with Pete Hurt, Henry Lowther, Stan Sulzmann. As a selflessly generous and superb educator – at RAM, Trinity, Guildhall, and on Summer Schools – he leaves a huge legacy of influence among younger musicians.

An interview which Alex Hutton – also from Sheffield – did with him going through the main steps in his career, with a fascinating discussion of metric modulation is AVAILABLE FOR DOWNLOAD HERE.

His many friends in the jazz community are mourning the very sad loss of an irreplaceable, central figure. Pete Saberton Born 9th July 1950. Died 21st March 2012. RIP.

UPDATE 25th April:

 John Fordham’s very fine obituary

UPDATE 3rd April

– At today’s Memorial Ceremony in Mitcham, there were moving tributes from family members and friends, including Henry Lowther, Pete Hurt and Eddie Parker.

– The Vortex will be having a plaque dedicated to Pete Saberton on its piano stool and has asked for suggestions for the wording SEE NEW BLOG POST

– Any donations in honour of Pete should be sent to Myeloma UK. The options of ways to donate are on the MYELOMA UK WEBSITE

Categories: miscellaneous

14 replies »

  1. Pete's loss has come as a shock to all who knew him, and especially to those of us who worked with him regularly (and so recently). His influence in the jazz world is huge: he was a truly original voice, both through his playing and compositions, and a most generous and loving human being. His cheery grumpiness was a natural result of his constant quest for high standards and creative freedom — for himself and everyone around him. I feel tremendously privileged to have been touched by such an important, courageous, and influential musician and great friend.

    Pete was a founder and an engine of the London Jazz Orchestra, and will be tremendously missed.

  2. Mike Westbrook has written in by Email

    Pete Saberton will be mourned by all his
    fellow musicians. I'd like to add my own tribute to an exceptionally fine, creative and sympathetic musician. Kate and I had the pleasure of working with him in my Orchestra in the early '90s.

    I owe him a great deal for his playing , during that period of big musical challenges that included our festival in Catania and the recording of the Orchestra of Smith's Academy album at Crawley. I shall always be profoundly grateful for Pete's contribution, notably his masterly handling of the demanding piano part in Measure for Measure and his exquisite and moving introduction to So We'll Go No More A' Roving.

    Rest in Peace.

  3. Pete was a truly inspirational teacher and I feel immensely privileged to have been one of his students. There was so much to be learnt from him and I'm devastated I'll never be able to see him again. I will treasure my notes forever. Unlike some teachers who simply palm off their own styles onto their students, Pete was incredibly versatile and took what I already knew and taught me how to hone it. His technique was second to none, with musicality and intelligence that would rival even the best classical pianists. Listening back to lesson recordings brings a tear to my eye. A truly humble man who will be greatly missed.

    Rest in Peace.

  4. I was shocked and sad to hear Pete passed away. He was a pianist with that magic touch…..a super composer. He had a great way to make other people's music shine with his giving nature.
    I will always treasure the trio with Tony Levin and Pete and the chemistry we had musically and socially.
    I'm going to miss Pete's great dry sense of humour the man with a rich core.
    Rest in peace.
    Fred T Baker

  5. The London Jazz Orchestra gig at the Vortex on 15 April at 4 p.m. will be celebrating Pete Saberton's work.
    I always respected Pete use of the Steinway at the Vortex. He was a helluva perfectionist, and had a touch like no-one else I have heard, which made the instrument ring.

  6. Gwilym Simcock writes by email:

    I was lucky enough to have some lessons with Pete at the Royal Academy of Music eleven or twelve years ago, and the thing that shone through immediately was his individuality on the instrument, as well as his pure enjoyment of making music. Both very inspiring characteristics for a budding jazz student to see. He had a very distinctive sound, and the great shame is that there isn't more recorded documentation of his playing. I really hope that there are some hidden gems of his work out there, (radio recordings etc…) and it would be great if some kind of audio tribute/compilation was made of him performing.

    RIP Pete.

  7. I remember his warmth, virtuosity and sense of humour when playing with the John Williams big band in the 70s along with Dick Pierce. Back then, at Ronnie Scotts in small groups, Pete sometimes replaced the start of Invitation with the Tony Hancock theme tune. As deep and profound as anyone else when he wished to be of course.

  8. Tribute on Royal Academy Website:


    We were deeply saddened to hear about the passing of pianist Pete Saberton, aged 61, in the early of hours of Wednesday 21st March 2012 following a battle with Myeloma. Pete was not only one of the most genuinely original jazz pianists and composers the country has ever produced, but also a hugely valued member of the Academy Jazz faculty. As well as teaching principal study piano lessons he also regularly took small ensemble projects through many of his remarkable compositions, and so often students over the years would find their musical outlook altered forever-more having experienced his individual approach to music. In the London Jazz Festival of November 2009, Pete was one of the featured guests in our British Jazz Composers series with the Academy big band, along with his close friends and colleagues, Pete Hurt, and Academy alum Henry Lowther. We were extremely privileged to record this music with all three of them in June 2010 and will be releasing these sessions very soon. Pete Saberton will be tremendously missed by us, and so many of the musicians he inspired throughout the country, he has left an irreplaceable void in the jazz firmament that only “Sabbo” could have filled.

    Following this sad news we have decided to change the programme of the last big band concert of the year to pay tribute to the wonderful, unique music of Pete Saberton. The concert on Tuesday 1st May, 7.30pm in the Dukes Hall, will now feature a set of Pete Saberton's originals by the Academy Big Band, alongside the 4th year Octet Compositions originally scheduled.

    Nick Smart – Head of Jazz, RAM

  9. Mark Lockheart writes by email:

    I was fortunate enough to work with Sabo's Quartet over the last ten years or so and will miss his amazing playing and writing. We would play at the 606 Club every couple of months and unusually I remember vividly every single gig, largely I'm sure because of Pete's unbelievable inventiveness and power as a pianist, he would often just start a tune with a thundering introduction that was totally unique, stylistically free and playing his own musical language that was way beyond what most of us do, in short he blew me away!

    We will miss you Sabo.

    Mark Lockheart

  10. Sad to hear of the passing of my old school mate Pete. We went our seperate ways in the mid 60's.
    I am truely amazed at his achievements, and pleased that he was an inspiration to so many.
    The good memories have been flooding back.
    Will be raising a glass to you.

  11. Pete was all that people have said here and a v funny, passionate, smart and engaging man. He was a beautiful player, composer and arranger. It's heartbreaking that he has gone.

    I can't make it sadly, but his memorial service and blow afterwards is open for anyone to attend 12 -1pm. The blow 1pm – 5pm plus refreshments. The location is detailed in the dedication above these posts.

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