Bunny Berigan’s Music Still
Inspires Musicians of Today
The Peter Locke Story
By Julie Flemming
The inspiration of Bunny Berigan’s
music today on professional musicians became apparent when the New Wolverine
Jazz Orchestra of Australia performed for the Madison Jazz Society in
Peter later told his story and here it
is…. “I was about 10 years old, living
in a little country river town in
My parents got a Reader’s Digest swing-era box set of records which I started listening to intently. I loved the sweet sounds of the era immediately, and became aware of a lot of the bands and names of the music. I was, of course, still hearing ‘naively” as I describe it, but something got to me with this music.
For some reason I used to try to sing the Trumpet section parts, including just the Trumpet “shots” as they are called. Of course one of the tracks was ‘I Can’t Get Started’! I would keenly wait to hear the big down beat of the band setting up Bunny’s cadenza at the beginning…..then that tone would immediately grab you – spellbinding. There seemed to be a special kind of soul getting through to the listener.
Though most people ‘knock’ his vocal, it does personalize it for the listener and you think, particularly for a young kid, this is the same guy who plays this incredible trumpet.
Bunny Berigan preceded my hearing of Louis Armstrong, whom everyone loves of course, and my peers often tell me of the heavy influence of Louis in Bunny’s playing. Yet, I still hear them as separate souls in their playing. Anyway it was a fork in the road for me and I’ve been a jazz person ever since! I wanted to be Bunny Berigan!
My first played gigs were on trumpet
but it didn’t quite work out and I became a jazz pianist, still dabbling on the
trumpet. I haven’t all of Bunny’s
recordings, but I still treasure a vinyl of ‘A Study in Brown’ I bought as a
teenager. On it he did incredible solos
on tunes such as
Peter Locke started with the New Wolverine Jazz Orchestra in 2003. He is an in demand player and his piano arrangements can be found in many different settings. There are few musicians today who can move so seamlessly from interpretations of the works of Bix Beiderbecke and Duke Ellington to Be-Bop and beyond. The NWJO has a CD with 17 titles on it, recorded in 2006, with solos of Peter named ‘Scuttlebutt’, ‘Black Beauty’, and ‘Jazz Lips’. The title of the CD is “The New Wolverine Jazz Orchestra ‘From Bix to Duke’”.
One can often find the NWJO live at
the Sidney Jazz Club that was founded in 1953. This is the club that keeps
alive the flame of Traditional Jazz and will continue while ever “the band
plays on.” The NWJO is regarded as one
of the world’s leading traditional jazz bands and internationally, one of
performed all over