Be it backing up The Temptations, touring the Western United States, fronting his jazz groups or getting down with his many and varied ensembles, Noah Peterson is a delightful and emotional saxophonist. An internationally air-played jazz artist who is a regionally touring musician, Noah leads jazz bands in Portland, OR and has a stellar reputation as hard-working, hard-playing musician. He’s been a horn section leader, sideman, band leader, composer and arranger in Blues, Funk, Rock, Folk, Gospel, Reggae, Pop and Jazz bands as well as a classical ensembles and a Zimbabwean Marimba/Mbira Band. His compositions have been nationally and internationally broadcast and he’s been featured at festivals throughout the Northwest.
Noah grew up in Billings, MT as the youngest of 4 and son of a band director. All of the family played musical instruments although there was never much of an emphasis put on music as anything other than a hobby. Noah's dad had a reputation for having "A bible in one-hand and a shot-gun in the other;" although a lot of that was probably due to the rough and tumble attitude of Noah and his brothers and their ability to take their lumps when it came their time. Then again…
Noah played in the school band and sung choir in elementary and middle school. Noah started playing in the school jazz band in middle school. Noah didn't compete in competitions much, nor did he audition for regional band programs, although his siblings did. One brother and his sister frequently did well as competitions and performed in All-state and regional bands. In high school, scheduling didn't allow for students to take both band and choir. As a result, Noah and several of his fellow classmates skipped lunch and left band early to sing in the choir. Noah played in concert band, jazz band, marching band (at least until he made the varsity football team - captain his senior year!) and pep band whose rowdy reputation was notorious throughout the state and acknowledged by rival school basketball coaches as an emotional force to be reckoned with. Suffice to say, music, fun and adventure were synonyms for Noah.
Noah enlisted in the United States Marine Corps in 1991 and was accepted into the Marine Music Program. He attended boot camp in San Diego and graduated the Armed Forces School of Music in Little Creek, Virginia. Noah fit well into the Marines. He was stationed at the Marine Corps Air Ground Combat Center in 29 Palms, CA. Serving in the 29 Palms Field band was quite the experience. Performing over 400 shows a year and logging 60,000 travel miles, the Band performed from Yuma, AZ to Portland, OR to Barber's Point, HI. Parades, festivals, fairs, concerts, schools, military ceremonies and everything in between Noah played Alto, Tenor, Bari, Soprano saxophone and clarinet. Noah was in every band there was: show band, jazz combo, concert band, cut-down band, tenor band…if there was a gig, Noah was on it. The experiences and lessons learned would serve him well in the future. The stories are endless, ask him about it sometime and you'll tire of the tales long before he runs out of stories from those loved, strange and frustrating years. But as he says, "The Marine Corps was a great place to get prepared for being a professional musician."
Noah was discharged from the Marines in 1994 with an Honorable Discharge and came to Portland and started college at Marylhurst University. At Marylhurst, Noah studied under Sister Anne Cecile Daigle and Sister Magdelene (SNJM). His college experiences were mostly uneventful as Marylhurst is a small, private, liberal arts school with an emphasis on adult education. However, Noah did found his first professional group, The Noah Peterson Quartet, which soon added a fifth member and changed its name to Miles Ahead a while later, and began to find out about jazz.
Noah's first band was a great forum to see how much of his military experiences translated into civilian life. Turns out, it was all VERY compatible. Noah scored a few gigs and landed a regular Friday lunch and jazz gig at Irey's Bistro, just down the road from the College.
This gig lasted a year and was a great place for the band to find its feet and get moving. Miles Ahead was a modern jazz quintet, focusing on modal jazz. Noah began getting more gigs for the group and started his own booking agency, Peterson Entertainment. Noah had about 40 acts he represented, although he quickly found out that being a booking agent isn't a worthwhile pursuit for a college-man, upstart jazz musician, band-leader and person balancing three part time jobs with studies and what little was left for a personal life.
Noah earned his BA of Music in 1998 and for eight years led his band, Miles Ahead. The band went on two multi-state tours and Noah's composition "Smoke This" from their debut release, "Milepost 1" was spun regularly on KLON's nationally syndicated "Soul Jazz" program with Payal Kumar. Amazingly, the band rehearsed almost every week for 8 years and had only two personnel changes. During their run, the held a Wednesday house band slot at The Ash Street Saloon in the mid-1990s and held a regular, much-coveted First Thursday gig at the legendary Jazz de Opus for a year. The band success got to a point where some members no longer wanted to play weddings or corporate events and wanted to perform original compositions at concerts and clubs. Noah was happy to oblige his band and started performing weddings and corporate parties as a solo act returning to his original "The Noah Peterson Quartet" name.
During these years, Noah began joining other groups as well: punk, hip-hop, blues… whatever he could fit into his schedule and balanaced all of them fairly well with his day-job. Noah met all sorts of people, some which are close friends to this day and some who aren't. Miles Ahead broke up on their last tour in Salt Lake City and performed their last gig at Monk's House of Jazz to a packed house. A fine way to go out.
Noah's first solo CD, The Noah Peterson Quartet Live at Biddy McGraw’s received wide spread airplay throughout the US, Canada and some airplay in Europe, Africa, Australia and Asia. It still gets airplay here and there in some areas, but no where near as heavy as it's inital release. It is "A Downbeat Featured CD" spending 3 months on Downbeat Magazine's website as a featured CD. This band, Ed Coleman III on drums, Dennis Caiazza on Bass and Jay Stapleton on guitar performed frequently and enjoyed a small, but steady following.
Noah began playing with many other groups at this time, often juggling 8 bands as well as occasionally side-man gigs for blues and cover bands. Some groups rarely made it out of the basement, others were almost exclusively performance with little to no rehearsal. Jazz, hip-hop, dance dance bands, funk, avante-garde, reggae, blues, folk, pop, African… the word "no" did not exist.
Noah's groups hit the NW, playing Seattle, Spokane and occasionally in Montana/Idaho/Wyoming/California. His staple of corporte clients keep coming back for annual performances and he has played numerous festivals: Mountain Artist’s Rendezvous, Jackson Hole, WY, Ste. Chapelle Winery, Caldwell Idaho Summer Concert, Salem Arts Festival, Portland Arts Festival, Oregon Country Fair, Taste of Tacoma, Portland Jazz Festival, Vancouver Wine & Jazz Festival, DaVinci Days in Corvallis, OR, Blackberry Jam in Lowell, OR, Black Sheep Family Reunion, Willamette Valley Folk Festival, Sand in the City, NW World Reggae Festival, 13 Nights on the River, NW Folklife, Oregon City Summer Concert Festival, Estacada Summer Concert Series, West Linn Summer Solstice Celebration, Lake Oswego Concert Series, Lake Oswego Summer Splash, Tualatin Summer Concert Series, Enumclaw Concert Series, Kent Summer Concerts, Mensch Festival, Portland Parks & Rec Summer Concert Series, Wilsonville Arts Festival, Oregon Zoo World Music Festival, Zimm Fest.
Noah has educational programs that perform in schools, he has released several CDs on his label and continues to perform, record and develop new groups.
He still lives in Portland, OR and while he hires out for a variety of occasions his main groups are The Noah Peterson Jazz Ensembles, Will West & the Friendly Strangers, Voodoo Mountain Zydeco and gospel projects under development.
Noah is active with Local 99, the Musicians Union and currently serves on the Executive Board as well as serving as the AFM delegate to the Oregon AFL-CIO, he is a voting member of NARAS, hosts a weeky radio program on KPSU called "NW Jazz and More!"
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