RIP Peter King 1940-2020

Very sad news. One of the very greats of British jazz, saxophonist Peter King, passed away on Sunday 23 August, just a few days after his 80th birthday. He had been ill for some time.

Peter King, 2009. Photo credit Tim Dickeson

  These tributes and birthday wishes from friends, colleagues and fans for his eightieth birthday are now particularly poignant. Peter was informed about the greetings, and responded with typical modesty by email: “Oh Man!! I feel humbled…..” In sadness. Peter John King. Born Kingston, Surrey, 11 August 1940. Died Putney, 23 August 2020)

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  1. Such sad news. Enjoyed your music and really appreciate the lessons you gave me these last 10 years – even though I forgot to practice much too often. A great friend and musician. Will miss you Peter.

  2. Another of the greats gone. I saw him, and spoke to him, at Ronnie Scotts’ a few years ago. He was an absolutely fabulous player, and a true gentleman. Rest in peace, Maestro.

  3. Very sad news. We enjoyed Peters music greatly. Knew his sister very well and met him several times at gigs. R.I.P

    • Hi, mum is still alive and well at 90. Thought I’d just say hi when I saw your names. Ann (was Bainton)

      • Hi Ann, nice to hear from you and that mums ok. We seem to have lost touch with so many friends over the years. Say hello to mum for us and pass on our condolences, take care….Tony&Sue

  4. Just discovered minutes ago about my old friend and teacher, Peter King. Absolutely devastated. You were such a modest and gracious man. I used to love the stories of your music adventures over the years too. I have listened to all the saxes across the great decades of jazz and for me personally, you were the greatest sax player who has ever lived. There have been other greats – but you were truly a one off – Rest in peace, Peter. May your music live on for all to hear. Much love. Paul Leonard

  5. what sad news !! I played a lot with Peter from the 90’s until 2015! thanks to him I had my best musical moments! I am very sad tonight! if anyone can keep me posted, for the funeral ceremony thank you Rest in Peace Peter
    Duylinh Nguyen

  6. …. to add. When news of Peter’s funeral is made available, I would very much appreciate it if anyone can contact me with this information. Heart is very heavy today. Rest in peace, Peter.

  7. One of our finest ever jazz alto saxists with, fortunately, a splendid recording legacy to prove it.

  8. Am playing the album “East 34th Street” today and thinking about my years in his quartet and quintet. He was a fabulous alto player and a lovely guy. r.i.p

  9. Very sad news. Peter was a great alto player and teacher – a real gentleman. Saw him play many times – always a joy. Memories of many conversations at the University and am so pleased that I enabled Peter to receive a doctorate from Roehampton. I know he was delighted too. He taught me so much. At last he can join Linda, R.I.P.

  10. Peter gave so much pleasure to so manybpeople over the years. My earliest memory at the Bulls Head sitting at a table by the stage, Peter had just completed a characteristically blistering solo, sat down on the stage before us and asked if we were having a good evening. As others have said, he was such a gracious, gentle man who was supremely talented and will be sorely missed.

  11. Was fortunate to see him in Dublin in ’96-wonderful player,a master.Louis Stewart the jazz guitarist had played with him and he told me in an interview once that Peter was a fantastic musician not just a great player.And you had to be good to impress Louis………

  12. I was in a marching band in the 1980s and we walked playing past the old bull and bush Hampstead when i could hear this guy just joined in and walking with us and playing top to bottom and all around The tune. mr Pete king. Music music music wherever you go peter. r.i.p And playing

  13. What a loss to British Jazz! He was a modest self effacing genius, both on the ground and up in the air with his aeronautical exploits! Chris Laurence

  14. Very sad – saw him many times at the Appleby Jazz Festival and at the Bull’s Head at Barnes in London amongst other venues. Lovely tone and great compositions and improvisations over many years. ‘In a Monochrome’ from Lush Life remains my personal favourites. RIP

  15. Remember seeing him a number of times at The Bull’s Head, Barnes. As many have already said, he was such a modest person but one of the greatest jazz alto sax players to come out of the UK. We, at The Reading Jazz Circle, had the privilege of him coming down and performing for us at the very first live session we put on in Reading in the 1970s, at the now demolished Miller’s Arms in Caversham.

    I remember going round to his house somewhere in South London to fix up the gig. When I arrived at his house, an older woman came to the door who I mistook to be his mother. I said “I’ve come to see your son Pete.” She replied ” I’m not his mother – I’m his wife!” Classic faux pas!! Pete was very good about it, however. In fact we had a good chat during which time he told me one of his hobbies when not playing jazz was flying model aeroplanes!

  16. What a great loss. I saw Peter King many times during my period as a student/graduate in London from ’69 to ’75, often at the Bulls Head, and he was always a firm favourite not least because his playing was both inspired and dependable, I can’t think of an occasion when he failed to deliver 110% in his performance. Although I never chatted with him, and now wish I had, he always came across as a gentle and humble man which those who clearly consider themselves privileged to have worked with him seem to be confirming.

    Years later I rekindled so many memories of those days when reading his excellent autobiography Flying High. He will be greatly missed.

  17. Wonderful memories of playing with Peter’s Quintet and Quartet in the 70s and 80s and later with Charlie Watts’ various projects. I’ll never forget when we played “Bird with Strings” at the Blue Note in New York. Peter played magnificently, nobody in the world could have done it better. He was a truly great player and a kind and loving soul.
    Rest in peace dear Pete.

  18. An amazing player who I saw at many Jazz Festivals, he was quite simply the best player I have ever seen. Rest In Peace Pete King

  19. As a youngster I didn’t ‘get’ modern jazz. When I heard Peter King at the Bull’s Head and subsequently many times at Ronnie’s, I got it. I long dreamed of standing on a stage and introducing him. When I was gifted his quartet playing for me on my 70th birthday I was given that opportunity. “Ladies and gentlemen, you are going to hear one the finest alto sax players, not just in the UK, but in the WORLD. Mr Peter King.”

    The audience spanned three generations with eighty percent probably never having heard live jazz. Typical comments before the first set were, “I don’t understand jazz”. By the second set they were spellbound. At the end they were ‘flying high’ and roaring for more. ‘Understanding’ became irrelevant when they saw a master at work. A small part of a huge legacy he leaves. My hero, I’m holding your hand.

  20. I tried not to miss any of his gigs at the Bull’s Head in Barnes and when his quartet comprised Steve Melling on piano, Jeremy Brown on bass and Stephen Keogh on drums it was never anything less than a thrilling experience.

  21. I did not know Peter all that well but it was clear that he was a much more complex musician than the master be bop player that we were familiar with. I remember driving back from Southend after one of the master rehearsal sessions with a local big band that the MU used to fund which he aalways seemed to enjoy when he took part. At one point in our convversation he took me by complete surprise by saying that for all the virtuosity for which he was internationallyfamous he would dearly love to be able to write a song like Joni Mitchell. Right at the other end of the scale was his determination to write an opera, a difficult contemporary work, based on the life of Fritz Harber ,originally a German Jew whose chemical discoveries led to the production of Zyclon B the gas used in the Holocaust. If copies of Flying High, his autobiography, are still available try to get hold of one. One of the very best books about a musician, ever. Brian Blain

  22. Dear Peter,

    The time I spent hanging with you in London and in Connecticut was some of the best time I’ve ever had in my life. Studying with you was a joy. And I’ll never forget our first lesson when the first thing you had me do was play “Stella” in every key. The work we did together on our opera about Fritz Haber was equally exciting and rewarding. I’m proud to say we played and worked together during the twenty years that I knew you. I’ll miss you Pops. Julian

    • Your legacy will live on forever Peter the King of the sax played until he could hardly stand up at the Pizza express the last gig
      I heard him play. My wonderful friend ❤Linda his lovely wife way back in the swinging sixties they were my inspiration for the love of jazz. Fond memories of the many great musicians he played with music was his Life . We were fortunate to have such a gifted talented musician and composer.

  23. As a young contemporary of Peter’s in London in the 60’s, he gave a budding alto player like myself two options – to go for it and try and reach his standards or to give up completely. I chose the former, and with his encouragement managed to provide a career for myself albeit in Sweden. Such a unique artist as Peter only comes along extremely rarely and when they do you can count yourself very privileged to experience their virtuosity and inspirational playing first hand and on record. For me and countless others his passing is am enormous loss to the British and international jazz scene. Peter never ever came on big-time and had always a kind word for fellow musicians and fans. He will live on as a legend alongside the likes of Tubby Hayes and Ronnie Scott with love, respect and admiration. God bless you Peter. RIP

  24. I agree with all the comments above, Peter used to stay with me if he had gigs in the Manchester area. He was such an intelligent man, we had long conversations on a variety of subjects, I remember him telling me how sad he was when his wife Linda died.He was so modest too and very generous, giving me valuable advice on playing saxophone.

  25. I first saw the young Pete King around 1957 at The Club Octave-Hamborough Tavern Southall which ran for over 10 years on a Sunday evening, he was alongside the great Gordon Beck. As a teenager his talent and potential stood out a mile, a very sad loss for British and World Jazz. We can all grateful for being lucky enough to have seen and heard his unique cotribution live-R.I.P. Pete

  26. It’s taken me a week to come to grips with the loss this giant of a human being, musical genius, and truly one of the most humble and best friends I’ll ever have. Peter and Linda spent a week at our home in March of 99 during the Charlie Parker celebrations and he shared many wonderful and amusing stories with me. When visiting a bookstore here I expected him to head to the music section but he went straight to the math section instead saying, “I need to brush up on my calculus “! If anyone would like to listen to a radio interview he gave when here I’ll send it along. Kansas City

    • Hi Verne. Lovely to hear of Peter’s story. He told me he had a wonderful time when he played a part in Charlie Parkers celebrations and playing in the Gem theatre there with Red Rodney, Jay McShann and other greats? I for one would love to hear the interview if it is possible to send a link at all please? Does anybody know when Peters funeral is at all and whether there is a funeral syreaming link which is possible during this Covid situation. Thanks again, Verne. Regards Paul Leonard

  27. I found his command of Bird’s legacy truly incredible, but he never stood still. Remember him playing Giant Steps at the Bull in the 1960s.

  28. A truly wonderful musician; without doubt our finest, and also, one of the worlds very best. So sad to lose another world class musician.

    RIP Peter

  29. I’ve just heard. Sad news, saw him loads of times, every time he gave everything. His playing was truly thrilling.

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