At thirty-two, having played with Push and jammed with the cream of the new jazz funksters in London and New York, saxophonist Jacko Peake is the closest thing we have to an acid jazz veteran. He is from the same pool of London talent as players for Galliano, Jamiroquai, US 3 and producers for Dorado, Boogie Back, Black on Black and Conscious Records. Jacko's evolution from bit part honker in a rock band to featured soloist on the most kicking high production funk of the moment, Ubiquity's Mo' Cookin, reflects the development of acid jazz itself. As technique has matured and players attain the experience required to make even the simple funky, Jacko and the other elder statesman of the British funk scene are going global, involved in live funk scenes from Melbourne to Helsinki. Jacko chose San Francisco. Slouching at the kitchen table of his sun-soaked apartment in the Haight, toking alternately on coffee and Camel Lights, Jacko is the picture of the English geezer abroad. In mellow London tones, he runs it down. At 21, having played violin for many years in school orchestras, Jacko made a wise decision, laying aside the violin for the far sexier tenor sax: "I'd played dassical music throughout my teens and I was getting pretty pissed off playing other peoples music. In classical music you never get to improvise. I eventually gave up the violin because I wanted to jam with my friends who were playing drums and bass. I tried with the violin but I wanted to sound like Ronnie Laws or Grover Washington, not Stephan Grapelli." Jacko took a completely different approach to the saxophone than the rigorous formalism he had been taught on the violin. "I didn't read music on the sax at all and I didn't get lessons at the beginning either. I just played and pretty soon picked up how to do it. I enjoyed the freedom The first few years I got involved with this rock band called No Dice, I had to compete with two guitarists so I used to blow my guts out, really loud. I think it helped my tone in that respect, having to compete, I've always played quite aggressively since." From rock he moved to a new romantic band called Balance of Power, his first flirtation with the funk. "We tried to play funk" he says, "but you really have to be quite a good player to get a feel of the thing, the rhythm section just wasn't that good." London's club scene during this time was convulsing, Leigh Bowery and Boy George type 80's excess was fading, rare groove was reeling from an all out attack by house music which had invaded every club. Clubbers disillusioned with over-officious big club security began to congregate at huge illegal warehouse parties. Balearic and acid house blasted from one room, rare groove and boogie from another, and live funky jazz from third. At early warehouse parties Iike Hedonism, which did a series of legendary jams in spacious but discrete locations around north and west London that the the jams coalesced aspects of all these kinds of music, rare groove's sexy righteousness, hip hop's bad attitude, house's energy. At one particular Hedonism, off Shepherd's bush roundabout, while thousands danced - tranced to acid on the main floor, a group of musicians crammed into the back room to jam. The rhythm section, drummer Crispin Taylor and bassist Ernie McCone and Jacko really hit a groove. Around the same time DJ Gilles Peterson coined a sarcastic term to sell this music to the masses. Acid jazz was born. "We were always being asked what acid jazz meant, but we never really knew" says Jacko. "We weren't that happy with the phrase but there was no other way to describe what we were doing. To us the 'acid' part of it meant you could do whatever you wanted. There was a freedom like the kind of freedom you get when you're on that drug... so I'm told". Determined to be a player, Peake set about improving his jazz chops; practicing regularly and applying for a post-diploma jazz course in London's famous Guildhall School of Music. At the audition, Jacko realized for the first time how much he didn't know about jazz. "I didn't know the first thing about harmony" he admits. His application was denied. "For a whole year I gave up going to the pub, I gave up clubs and I practiced six or eight hours a day. The following year I went back to the Guildhall audition and I was really on the case. They could see how hard I had worked. I was transformed." Once enrolled Jacko added a knowledge of jazz harmony to the rhythmic sense he already had. "Basically I learned about harmony, how jazz standards are made, how chord progressions work, and how that relates to you as a soloist. My vocabulary as a player grew enormously. If your vocabulary is large then you will be able to bring up loads of phrases for different situations instead of just saying 'yeah well' all the time." It was during this period that Jacko got a call from Crispin Taylor who told him to come rehearse with his new band. Taylor, McKone and Jacko, together with guitarist Asheen, keyboard player Nickie Compton and percussionist Conor Smith formed Push, fronted by talented north London soul singer Eddie Saunders. The band began to perform regularly around London in conjunction with established club promoters, sharing the bill with other new groups, Diana Brown and The Brothers and The Brand New Heavies. For a while the Push thing careered along. They recorded a version of James Brown's 'Football', rearranged and renamed 'Eddie's Beat' and released it on a (now extremely rare) white label with two other tracks 'Gossip' and 'Skinny Legs'. Another original slice of Push funk, 'Traffic' appeared on Acid Jazz's first compilation LP 'Acid Jazz and Other Illicit Grooves'. Gradually fault lines began to show. Push's aggressive approach to funk led them to a James Brown kind of sound which vocalist Eddie found limiting. On the eve of a tour of Japan he quit. The band were able to tour with Seal as replacement. The tour was a stormer, Seal was made in Japan, but two band members were lost to the Thailand hippy trail and the momentum was lost. It was the eventually the skill of the bant members which killed the band. The individuals were approached from all sides by musicians and producers eager to harness Push-funk for their own projects. Taylor and Mckone remain one of the busiest rhythm sections in London. Jacko too picked up numerous gig playing on The Young Disciples 'Road To Freedom' LP (soloing on 'Freedom Suite'), jamming with on Talbot/White's debut 'United States Of Mind', eventually landing a tasty gig with Paul Weller. "I had always wanted to come to the states", he says,abut I'd been waiting because I knew eventually I would get a gig which would pay me to go." Jacko toured America with The Paul Weller Movement, during which he met his wife, Brook. After two years of hopping the Atlantic, the two were married and set up home in San Francisco. "I felt really creative here" he says, "my main objective was to start writing my own music." His first move was to take a couple of demos down to Michael and Jody McFadin's record store, Groove Merchant, from which they ran their Luv N' Haight and Ubiquity labels. Through the McFadins, Jacko met producer Dan Prothero a.k.a. The Rhythm Section. A speedy collaboration yielded the two tracks 'Suzanne's Jam' and 'Butter Rolls' within six weeks, both of which appear on 'Mo' Cookin',' Ubiquity's second new music compilation. "Dan in turn introduced me to a group of musicians who had all just left music college in Texas calling themselves Slide 5" Jacko continues. "They were into exactly what I was into -- bringing people across by playing funky jazz without over-intellectualizing." In his live appearances with Slide 5, and recordings with Ubiquity, Jacko Peake has been putting this populist acid jazz creed into action. With a restrained urgency to his playing and genuine jazz chops Jacko has hit form. After two years in San Francisco Jacko returned to London in April to begin work on Talbot/White's new project. Preserving the traditions of Gene Ammons and Maceo Parker while making music which is original is no easy job. Jacko's up to it.
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