Wednesday, December 25, 2013

Faces of the Artists Quarter #22

Pete Whitman (2011)

© Andrea Canter

Pete Whitman's X-Tet
Just how can you put a band with ten musicians on the Artists Quarter stage-- along with a Yamaha grand? Easy - just take out the first two rows of tables. And for years, nearly every month (usually the last Thursday), the Pete Whitman X-Tet proved that the AQ had enough room for a large ensemble - and without killing the ears of patrons sitting only a few feet away.  Month after month, we heard fresh arrangements and original compositions from the best "little big band" around, a band that would easily garner raves in the Big Apple, sporting the very best of Twin Cities' musicians and what seemed to be an ideal configuration-- rhythm section, horns, and vibes. Veterans dominated the line-up (Dave Karr, Phil Hey, Laura Caviani, Dave Graf, Dave Hagedorn), which in the last couple years has also included some hot young talents like Adam Meckler and Adam Rossmiller.

Pete Whitman with "Mississippi"
But Pete Whitman is no one-trick saxman. There was his quintet, Departure Point, and most recently a collaborative ensemble dubbed Mississippi that debuted on the AQ stage. A few years ago, we were privileged to have Peruvian guitairst Andres Prado in our midst, and his gigs at the AQ always featured Pete on sax. And there's Pete's partner, pianist Laura Caviani, who often teams up with Pete to add some more harmonic depth to her small combos. Pete headed AQ tributes to the late Dewey Redman and in the past year or so was often featured on the Tuesday night "And Friends" series.

And performing is only part of Pete Whitman, who heads the Brass and Woodwinds department at McNally Smith College of Music. In keeping with the AQ's focus on supporting young musicians, Pete often brought the college edition of the X-Tet into the AQ, along with periodic student/faculty "McNally Smith Venue Nights."

Pete Whitman blows a mighty fine horn (and flute), but he also helps ensure the Twin Cities' jazz legacy, on and off the stage.