Peter Madsen: Comfortable Inside and Out
"I don't think there were as many players at the time and maybe even more places to play for us non-famous guys, back in 1980. I started working pretty quickly, actually. Anthony and I got a gig playing at 1 Fifth Avenue, which had jazz every night. He also worked with bassist Phil Bowler there for a few years while his reputation got around the city. The pay was enough to survive, along with other small gigs in the city, and Madsen met a lot of musicians during those years. Finding an inexpensive apartment in Brooklyn, which had room for musicians to play without bothering neighbors, also became an important step in Madsen's development. It became a place where musicians could play and experiment and word got around.
"That's how I met most of the guys I know even now, is from that place. I bought a drum set. I had a nice piano and amplifiers. People would just come over and play. I had all kinds of people at my house. It's amazing. Most people find out you're into creative music and you're doing some cool stuff and you have a good place to play and you can play any timepeople come. Word spreads around.
"It's also how I got into composing too. I figured these guys didn't want to come over and play things out of the real book. So I though I'd better have some interesting things for them to play. I did two things: I did a lot of writing and challenging things for them and for myself, and I did a lot of transcribing of some very unusual music. It enticed people to want to come over even more, because here was this guy who had all this interesting music to play. It was a great thing for me.
Piano bar gigs, even working with various singers in clubs around the city, were steady and sustained Madsen. Then through Cox, he managed to land work with one of the jazz elite.
"In 1986, Anthony Cox was working with Stan Getz and he was looking for a pianist to go on a tour within a few days. Anthony recommended me. Stan calls and asked if I wanted to do it. Of course, I jumped at the chance. It's funny, just a few days before that I had auditioned for Gerry Mulligan. Then Stan called and I immediately took that. I really wanted to do that gig. The first thing was a tour in Europe, with Terri Lyne Carrington on drums, Anthony and myself. A really great band. It was quite creative.
"Stan calls me in and says, 'What music do you like to play?' I'm like, what music do I like to play? I like all kinds of stuff. He said, 'Well bring some with you, we'll play it.' Madsen chuckles recounting the story, surprised that Getz was interested in getting music from someone he had just hired. "So I brought all kinds of stuff. He picked out some stuff he liked and we did a bunch of stuff. It was fun. It was pretty creative. We were pushing him pretty hard. He was pretty sick at the time with cancer, but he was playing hard every night. He came out to really play. He never was holding back for one second. We were more in the 'out' direction and he liked it. He was going with us. He didn't just play pretty like everyone somehow assumes he does. He extended beyond what I always thought of him.
"From that point it grew to many different things. After that, Anthony got me on a gig with Fred Wesley who was doing a recording. At the time he was using Geri Allen. She couldn't do the recording. Anthony recommended me and that's how I met Fred. I've been in his band since then. I haven't stopped being in his band. We have gigs all the time. On that first recording was Maceo Parker and a bunch of the guys that became the Fred Wesley Band after that.
He also worked steady in a club in the lower Village, where various top musicians would get booked and Madsen would be in the rhythm section. "That's where I met a lot of people, whether it be Joe Lovano, Billy Drewes, Ellery Eskelin, Arthur Blythe, all kinds of people he had to play with us. A lot of great drummers and bass players. It was one great rhythm section after another. I got to meet a lot of great people on that gig.
In 1993, He released his first CD as a leader, Snuggling Snake's on Minor Music, an independent label from Germany. In addition to steady work with a group led by Pee Wee Ellis (a gig running for about the last five years) and Wesley, for years Madsen had a duo with Austrian bassist Peter Herbert performing entirely original compositions and teaching workshops around Europe and Japan. Known as Peter and Peter they have two CDs available on the Austrian POA label. (Darkness Pursues the Butterfly and Puppets Dance).