Pete was born at a very early age. This, he feels, had no effect on his reluctance to play jazz whilst doing the kind of things one does at an early age. In fact, he readily admits himself that his ten-and-a-half shoe-size had long been established before such words as ‘augmented’ and ‘altered’ had encroached upon his adolescent vocabulary. Pete also rather shamelessly admits to not only having owned a ukulele-banjo as a young teenager, but also to having learned every George Formby song which contained the slightest hint of a thinly veiled double entendre. Apparently though, it was the allure of the 7th chords which got the lad and it was an obvious transition therefore to move directly from G. Formby to the works of Egberto Gismonti, Pat Metheny, Herbie Hancock and John Scofield, influences which he would still cite today.
But to go back a little: in the seventies and early eighties, Pete had a lot of hair and so felt duty bound to play in guitar-wielding rock bands. Being a bit of a smart-arse, he joined a band which eschewed the 3-chord trick, favouring the unnecessary musical complications flaunted most obscenely by Yes and Genesis. With the suffolk-based band Kashmir, Pete wrote many a lengthy opus, recorded and undertook several world-domination tours of East Anglia. He owns up to having owned a double-necked guitar during this dubious period of his career.
Then, something happened: Pete was offered a place at the Leeds Jazz College in 1981. He accepted the place on the understanding that jazz meant playing good-time stomping stuff in pubs, getting paid a fiver and drinking as much beer as could be consumed during a gig (following the demise of Kashmir, he had joined a stompers band in his native Bury St Edmunds). On his arrival at the college, he realised he had been duped: The hipsters were listening to The Brecker Brothers. Pete rebelled by assuming the persona of George Orwell, wearing a habitual dark brown coat and writing poetry rather than attending music classes.
Incredibly though, something good happened during those dark brown years: Pete got to hear Steely Dan’s ‘Aja’, Pat Metheny’s ‘American Garage’ and Joni Mitchell’s ‘Hejira’. He’s put this in writing before, so presumably it is to be believed that this was Pete’s turning point in musical appreciation. He somehow managed to respectably graduate from the Leeds Jazz College and moved to Paris to begin a glorious career unfettered by stompers or George Formby.
It was in Paris that Pete began gigging intensely, backing singers, generally freelancing and working on his own musical projects. His touring group, The New Noakes Quartet recorded two CDs Through Green And Pleasant Lands (33Jazz004) and Up to Here (MJM11184 ) and toured Europe extensively during Pete’s Paris period. He also released a CD with his trio East Coast Joys (33Jazz034) to much critical acclaim.
On relocating to the UK in 1996 (after his ten-year sojourn in Paris), Pete reformed his touring band as the ‘New Noakes Internationals’, extending it to a quintet, the 5th member being the phenomenal tenor saxophonist Butch Thomas (ex-Sting, Jaco Pastorius, Aretha Franklin, Lenny Kravitz etc etc). With this new lineup (including the fabulous Dave Gordon on piano and keyboards, the Gallic genius Etienne Brachet on drums, and Spin-meister Raph on basses), the New Noakes recorded Blue In Black And White (33Jazz069). This album was generally hailed as the groups finest work to date, John Etheridge summarising it thus: “All in all, this is as strong an album of contemporary composition and soloing as you’ll hear anywhere”. For further information about the New Noakes, please visit Pete’s website at www.peteoxley.com
Pete continues to wear trousers.