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Pete Souders of Ortlieb's Jazzhaus: How He Made His First Recording

Updated on July 23, 2018
Maren Morgan M-T profile image

Music permeates Maren's soul, whether performing (voice, piano, drum, guitar, clarinet) or acting as a crazily enthusiastic audience member.

Pete Souders
Pete Souders | Source

A Mission From God To Promote Jazz

Elwood and Jake Blues knew they had “a mission from God” to earn money to keep their childhood orphanage open. God thrust Saint Teresa of Calcutta in a situation in which she was compelled to use all the talents and yearnings she had to help the poor. Along the same lines, Pete Souders, former computer-geek, in my estimation, had a mission from God to make music. Specifically, hard bop jazz.

Pete did this in two ways: the first was to sink everything he owned and every talent he possessed into the Camelot of jazz players on the east coast: Ortlieb’s Jazzhaus. That story is well known. What is less well-known is Pete’s profound craving to play jazz on tenor sax better and better.

Pete Is A Tenor Sax Player

Once the day-to-day running of Ortlieb’s was in his past, Pete worked on his restoring his health. One could call it “learning to breathe again.” He isn’t the kind of guy to wear his heart on his sleeve or to invoke sympathy for himself, so most of the jazz community didn’t know how much of a toll running that great joint in Northern Liberties exacted from him. In retirement from Ortlieb's, Pete had a few specific health challenges to “correct" and then he created a healthier life.

One thing he deeply regretted while running Ortlieb’s was how little time he had to practice his sax. It was hit or miss, and he knew that what time he could devote was not worthy of the finest music he knows. With biographical factoids (Pete loves facts) sloshing around in his brain about how many hours a day the Hawk and Coltrane practiced, Pete started getting more quality and quantity in his daily practice in his basement studio.

Pete Souders At LaRose in Germantown

Jammin' on a Monday night at LaRose.
Jammin' on a Monday night at LaRose. | Source

Fellow Music Folks Nudge Pete

Pete admits that thankfully he is much more musically conversant and has a greater riff vocabulary than when he ran Ortlieb’s. Friends started suggesting that maybe it was time for the great encourager and supporter of Philly jazz cats to cut a recording of his own. As usual, the modest Pete demurred. Jazz cats often do most of their composing on stage in response to the moment. But, one friend hit him with “I don’t want you to die with your music inside you,” he started seriously considering making a recording.

Pete Playing At Ortlieb's Jazzhaus

This was at a Shirley Scott tribute held after Pete sold Ortlieb's but before the venue was radically altered.
This was at a Shirley Scott tribute held after Pete sold Ortlieb's but before the venue was radically altered. | Source


The steps that other musicians take to make a recording irin the younger years were brand new to Pete: choosing a studio, learning what the dickens mixing and mastering are, and deciding when, how and where to promote his cd (again, for humble Pete, promoting is tough.) From start until finish it was an eight- month journey. The result is “Echoes of Ortlieb’s,” a succulent selection of standards with three different ensembles joining Pete.

Photos and text copyright 2011 Maren Morgan, all rights reserved.

© 2011 Maren Elizabeth Morgan


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