Greetings and Birthday Wishes for Peter King at 80

One of the very great figures of British Jazz, saxophonist Peter King is eighty years old today. Colleagues, friends and fans send best wishes:

Peter King, Brecon, 2010. Photo credit and © William Ellis

JULIAN ARGÜELLES: Even now at the age of 54 I remember very clearly when I was In my early teenage years, and struggling to play along to the easy bits of Charlie Parker solos, hearing Peter playing with various bands in Birmingham, where I grew up, and being amazed that such things could be played in real life. I’ve been lucky enough to play with Peter many times since and I’ve always been amazed. Lots of love to you Pete! Julian x IAIN BALLAMY: Peter has been a hero of mine since the very first time I heard him play with my father Mark at Surrey university in 1979. He must surely be classified as a jazz legend of the alto saxophone. His mastery is recognised around the world including his recordings with George Coleman and the many recordings Peter contributed to that now define the history of British jazz. Happy birthday and Thank you maestro! BRUCE BARTH: Dear Peter, Happy 80th birthday! Your soulful playing speaks deeply to me. I’ll never forget playing your Janus Suite for Jazz Quartet and String Quartet at King’s Place several years ago. Your writing was both.inspired and inspiring. I believe that the beauty and power of your music drew out of all the musicians all that we had inside – and maybe then some. Your playing that night was glorious. It was an honor to share the bandstand with you. I’m wishing you all the best from New York. With admiration and gratitude, Bruce Barth JEREMY BROWN: Dear Peter, I just wanted to say Hi on your 80th birthday. I know things are pretty miserable for you right now but I wanted you to know that I think of you often and remember the times playing music with you with great fondness. They really had a big impact on me and I’ll never forget how wonderful you sounded! I hope today is one of the better days. Much love Jeremy (bassist with Peter from 1996 – 2009) PETER FREEMAN: Hope you have a great day Peter Happy Birthday, so many memorable nights over the years, a big thank you, you told me a wonderful story in a bar in Soho years ago concerning turning down a drink and a gangster in the sixties. You keep on keeping on Peter. GEOFF GASCOYNE: “What an honour it has been to be a member of The Pete King Quartet it has been for the last 10 years. Although the gigs have become less frequent and Peter’s health has diminished he never failed to deliver a masterclass in bebop jazz vocabulary when he played, despite his confidence to do so. The energy of the quartet remained at a high level every time we played and it is a remarkable achievement just keeping up with us and a testament to Peter’s strong character. I have so much respect, Happy Birthday Peter, lots of love, Geoff Gascoyne x PS I remember when we both appeared, alongside Eddie Izzard, in the stage play of ‘Lenny’ at the Queens Theatre Shaftesbury Avenue and every night Peter had to lay down, centre stage and pretend (act) to be a strung out junkie and deliver his line, how ironic, but hilarious. I will never forget it.” NIKKI ILES: Dear Peter …Sending you love and best wishes for your 80th birthday! I will never forget our tours of the north with Gerard (speed trap era !). You were so inspiring and generous with us and you gave me my first gig at Ronnie’s depping for Steve Melling. I was physically sick on the pavement outside in anticipation …I loved it…Thank you for being who you are and allowing us all for a moment, to touch the coat tails of the ultimate “real deal”! Have a fab day…even if it is “Too darn hot !!” Love Nikki JULIAN JOSEPH: Peter King is one of the UK’s greatest musical heroes. His discipline and creativity emerged amongst some the finest Jazz Musicians that include Ronnie Scott, Tubby Hayes and Joe Harriott and stood out for me and my peers growing up. I have the good fortune to call him friend and my whole family adore him. Over several decades we have spoken in depth about things music, art and life and his words, music and friendship have illuminated so much for me inside and outside of music. I continue to be enriched for knowing him and over the course of successes and some recent challenges he always handles himself with dignity, piety and grace. He’s an inspiration as a composer and alto saxophonist of excellence, scholarship, facility and insight and I know the privilege of a life with Peter in it. Happy Birthday Peter. Always with love, Julian RAMON JOVE: I think Peter is one of the finest saxophonists ever. I love his amazing combination of lyricism and intensity. As his agent, I keep with me great memories traveling with him. Great music and high-level conversation was always guaranteed. Happy Birthday Mr.King. Ramon Jove STEPHEN KEOGH: It’s not easy to find the words that express the admiration, gratitude, love and high regard that I and so many others have for you. You were and are a musical guiding light, a mentor, one of the greatest musicians and leaders that I had the privilege of working for. You were always somewhere “up there” but you never looked down on anyone. You have enriched my life and the lives of many thousands. I remember hearing you for the first time at Ronnie’s taking a solo and how I felt when I heard that. I remember, a few years later how I felt when I answered the phone in Dublin you asked me to come and play a concert with you – that was a dream come true. I remember all of the musical adventures and the happenings we had on the road from that day to this. I remember you and Linda making me feel like family from the first day. Your incredible playing, your ingenious composition, your great spirit and your kindness have given so much to the world. I hope you can feel as proud of that as I am proud to know you. Stephen GARETH LOCKRANE: Hi Pete, happy birthday! Great to hear you’re celebrating your 80th today. I was just talking to Jez Brown the other day about you and how much your playing influenced me as a young jazzer in the early 90s (and ever since!); in particular your appearance at the Buxton jazz festival with Stan Tracey in 1992 (-ish). I was never the same again. You’re a hero to everyone on the scene and hope you’re keeping well. All the best, Gareth LAURA MACDONALD: Happy Birthday to Pete King. As a young aspiring alto player I felt very lucky to have such an amazing abundance of jazz musicians on the UK jazz scene to inspire me. Pete was definitely at the top of the list of inspirers for me! That sound! The sound that told the history of the instrument and the history of Pete’s listening through the years. To me, as a young player it was like listening to Cannonball or Charlie Parker. He had that huge dark alto tone and all the virtuosic technique to go with it. To have that inspiration to draw upon and be influenced by was a really amazing thing for me. Such a successful career as one of the worlds most prominent saxophonists. Happy Birthday Pete. You have inspired us all! CHARLES MCPHERSON: Best wishes to you Peter. Happy 80th. I think of you as one of the great alto players. Hope we see each other again someday. All the best from San Diego, Charles AGUSTI MAS: Long time ago… I met Peter King in Barcelona. From the first moment i was involved in his music and his soul. I fell in love with all his kindness, his music, his warmth and humanity. I had the honor and pleasure to play with my hero in Barcelona, Terrassa  and London.. Great memories in such a night at Ronnie’s in February 2008. Recording and playing with “The King” were some of my best moments in my life. Love you so much Peter!!! And i wish you a Happy 80th Birthday!!! With all my love. Agusti Mas xx PS: see you soon

Peter King, 2009. Photo credit Tim Dickeson

ALLISON NEALE: Dear Peter..many congratulations on your landmark 80th birthday year! You are truly a great inspiration of mine and I truly believe our greatest European jazz altoist of all time! Celebrate well! All my best wishes from Allison Neale DAVE O’HIGGINS: Happy birthday Pete King – a true giant of the saxophone. I learned a lot from growing up listening to him, not least some incredible diminished patterns from cadenzas that were equally heartfelt and thrilling! GERARD PRESENCER: Dear Peter, Happy Birthday. You’re an inspiration to us all and you have given me so much -mainly a kick in the right direction to practice! The first time I stayed in the same hotel as you, you were practicing Donna Lee in all keys. I realise that I met you when you were about the age I am now, and I remember how you shared your knowledge and enthusiasm with me so freely. You were very kind. I am eternally grateful to you for this shared love of music and standing next to you has been so so exciting. Nobody plays Bebop like you. Love, Gerard STEVE RUBIE: From performing at the opening night of the original Ronnie Scott’s Club in the late 1950’s through to his most recent gigs at the 606 Club, it’s a measure of Peter’s unbounded creativity and talent that he still sounds fresh and exciting every single time he plays. One of the UK’s greatest ever Jazz musicians, although he has over recent years struggled with his health he has still kept up a standard that consistently maintains his place amongst the very best in the world. A towering artist, I remember talking to him once about the string arrangements he wrote for his wonderful album “Janus”. I asked who had studied with in order to write such great charts. He looked at me with genuine surprise and said “I didn’t study with anyone, I just listened to a few Bartok records and got on with it!”. A remarkable player and a truly unique individual. Happy Birthday Peter! ARNIE SOMOGYI: Dear Pete, I hope this birthday greeting finds you in good health. It’s been a pleasure and honour to play with you over the years. I remember hearing you for the first time at the 100 Club in 1989 and being blown away by your musicality, expression and command of the instrument. You are held in the highest esteem by all the musicians I know – especially saxophonists – which is the probably the highest honour a musician can hope for. Wishing you all the best Pete! Love, Arnie

Pizza Express, 2015. L-R: Tom Cawley, Julian Arguelles, Jean Toussaint and Stephen Keogh look on admiringly as Peter King takes a solo. Photo credit Melody McLaren

  Best wishes were also received in the short time during which this piece was put together from Julian Arguelles, Stewart Forbes, Walter Houser, Steve Melling and Jean Toussaint. LINKS: Biography of Peter King Review of autobiography Flying High by Stephen Keogh Report on his 75th birhday gig at the 606

12 replies »

  1. Peter – Happy 80th! I have great memories of listening to your music-making over the years but especially the 2011 performance of your Janus Suite at Kings Place which Bruce Barth has mentioned. The Global Arts Ensemble combined a classical string quartet (Darragh Morgan (violin), Nicky Sweeney (violin), Gustav Clarkson (violin), Robin Michael (cello)) and a jazz quartet (Peter King (alto), Bruce Barth (piano), Jeremy Brown (bass), Stephen Keogh (drums)). A photo of this historical event is posted up on Flickr at May there be many more to come!

  2. It was a privilege to meet Peter King in Coutances, Normandy, France, Europe when he came with his quartet. He made me aware of what jazz is and why musicians can dedicate their life to that music. Thanks Mr King

  3. Ann and I sent congratulations privately but we can say publicly what an honour it was that Peter brought his autobiography to us for Northway to publish. He is a modest, gentle, good person and was a joy to work with. His immense contribution to jazz excellence deserves widening international recognition, which it is steadily finding. Here in London, I remember especially many wonderful monthly gigs at the Bull’s Head, over the years, when the music really reached the heights. And when he came to our house for the first time to discuss possibilities for publishing his book and gave us his customary warm, all-enveloping bear hug, it could have been a visit from Bartok or Debussy as far as I was concerned.

  4. Can beat you Peter (87) in Oct. : still remember our working together (inc. Ernie below) in the early ’60s and our last meeting at the Orpington Jazz Club , a year or so ago.
    Happy Birthday mate, from Dorothy and self ( yes still together after 63years)

    ps. Ernie Cranenburg ( guitar) sends greetings also.

  5. Hello Peter, happy 80th plus 3 days. Just been listening to your astonishing performance on Bird’s Massey Hall Grafton alto. You make it sound worth every penny of the £93,500 it fetched in auction.
    With very best wishes, Chris Biscoe

  6. A true and complete pleasure and a
    privilege to have known as a friend and had the honour to perform with ,such an unassuming and consumate legend of jazz and especially alto sax. World class every time he put his precious ‘horn’ to his mouth and blew us all away. I took him to visit Spa in Belgium where my pal and fellow jazz enthusiast Kieth Norman was racing. Kieth insisted that Peter see the famous ‘ Au Rouge’ bend in the flesh as he had written a song to it on Tambarillo. Peter was thrilled and even more so by being photographed in Keith’s racing car. Fine and fond memories. So very generous with his talent always. RIP old pal

  7. This is tremendously bad news. There must be thousands who remember piling into the Community Centre in Richmond, Saturday evening after Saturday evening every week to listen to Pete back in the early 60’s. I used to help carry the grand piano off the stage every week before the playing started. It’s a wonder no-one got killed. As a desperately keen alto player, I asked him to write me a couple of 12 bar solos to get get me further into the style. He did so, and although he didn’t want paying for it, I gave him ten bob! What would that be worth now, I wonder?
    RIP Pete, and thank you on behalf of myself and son’s for wonderful memories.
    Mal Rouse

  8. Belated condolences to Peter’s friends and his broader jazz family. Will miss his warmth and spirit of adventure along with his aerodynamic erudition.

Leave a Reply