Pete Zeldman - 'possibly the most technically advanced drummer in the world...'
Geoff Nichols, Rhythm Magazine, Issue 105.
Picture of Pete leaning on drums
Pete was born in New York City to a musical family. His father played trumpet in his early years but found his niche in the development of robots and artificial intelligence and ended up lecturing on creativity and innovation. His mother was a Julliard graduate and concert pianist in NYC. Pete's brother, now a guru of the internet (web standards), plays keyboards, flute and composes music.

It was his brother Jeff that got him into music, pinpointing bass lines and introducing him to an eclectic array of music.

Pete's family moved to Pittsburgh where he took up the drums. Within a year of playing he got his N.A.R.D. rudimental certificate and started to develop his chops early.

Also within that first year he was gigging with his brother and joined a fusion band with a child prodigy at the time named Danny "Stag" Steigerwald who was later one of the founding members of Kingdom Come, an MTV Heavy Metal Rock band.

Pete with Baron Browne
Deciding that he wanted to pursue music, Pete went to Berklee College of Music where he met and started gigging with fusion bands whose members included Baron Browne (pictured right with Pete), Vic Bailey, Stu Hamm, Steve Vai and a host of other futures.

It was there that Pete recorded his first album with a Brazilian outfit that he was involved with. Pete would travel to New York to take some lessons with Kenwood Dennard. This blossomed into a close friendship and they would talk about ideas for hours on the phone.

When Pete went back to Pittsburgh he got to play with some great artists at a jazz club called Heaven. These artists included Sonny Stitt, Clark Terry, Jimmy Ponder, Lee Konitz, Slide Hampton and Lou Soloff. This was a great opportunity and was a welcome part of his early education. At the same time he was doing outdoor jazz festivals with American hard bop sax player Nathan Davis.

Aside from gigging regularly, Pete had a keen interest in rhythm and would seek out as much information about the subject as possible. At the same time he was starting to develop ever increasing limb independence on the drums.

His individual style started while he was at Berklee but was now coming into its own. Next Pete ventured off to Atlantic City and played the casino circuit. He performed shows nightly while working with a jazz trio with his close friend, Bass player Norm Hogel, a lesser known but extraordinary musician. He would also end up working in Las Vegas doing 'odd' but useful gigs for further development.

After Atlantic City, Pete went to L.A. and did some work with Berklee friend Steve Vai, and recorded some tracks for Steve’s ‘Flexable’ and 'Flex-Able Leftovers' albums in his Chatsworth studio.

an early promo shot of Pete with funky glasses
While he was in L.A. he phoned Tony Newton (bass player for Tony Williams Lifetime) and asked him to get together. Tony said, “come on out” and Pete recalls playing through all the material from Tony Williams ‘Believe It’ album with him.

Throughout all of this, Pete was building rhythmic dreams that he would continue to work on and continuously listened to every style of music, including all world music. Pete says, "I was living as a caretaker on a 150 acre defunct movie ranch that was so isolated that mail wasn't even delivered there." This isolated movie ranch (front yard was Bonanza TV show's last set) was the perfect place to continue developing rhythm any time of day or night.

From L.A. Pete spent a short period of time in Washington D.C. doing some collaborative music with his brother Jeffrey for various dance companies. Then it was back to New York to do Off Broadway shows.

His mentor and friend Kenwood Dennard asked him if he wanted to teach at the Drummers Collective so Pete started teaching there and would remain a teacher there for 10 years. Early on, he would teach Rod Morgenstein's students when Rod was on the road, and then all the guys (teachers) would end up coming to Pete when they had questions regarding rhythm.

another early promo shot of Pete
"It was a great time of musical exchange at the "Collective". If there was free time between lessons I would get to jam with other musicians such as Frankie Malabe (Afro-Cuban percussionist and specialist). I remember Vinnie (Colaiuta) popped in one time - we had known each other for some time so we double drummed. It was cool because Vinnie started playing like Tony (Williams), I started playing like Vinnie so that he started to play more like himself and then I'd play like myself. It ended up very musical!"

Style, technique and ideas were all taking off and Pete started doing solo concerts at clubs like Roulette in downtown New York. He introduced multiple pedals to the equation and was now orchestrating with his hands as well as his feet.

Pete was one of the pioneers of multiple pedal orchestrations. Bill Milkowski started to write about Pete in various publications and people started talking about the extremes he was going to in breaking new ground on the drums and in rhythm itself.

One day, Kenwood asked him to help him out as he would be late to his Seventh Avenue South gig (the Brecker Brother's club) with the Tom Pierson big band featuring Anthony Jackson and David Sanborn. Pete says, "I couldn't turn it down and I was nervous, all really intricate charts very messily written in pencil! Scary." So he decided to do it. About the same time Pete did some session work with John Tropea.

Pete with other Card Game band members
His solo gigs were now being talked about, and Pete would join very "Downtown" rock and eclectic bands in NYC. These included some great unsigned acts like The Card Game (pictured left) and 2.5D. Stewart Copeland was played some 2.5D music in a Modern Drummer magazine blindfold test and said he was going to buy it as soon as it came out. His remarks were very positive. However, because the band was unsigned, he never got the opportunity.

Pete recalls doing strange performance spaces and performance art gigs. One that stands out is a gig at the Kitchen with Alan Ginsberg. Pete was also doing the CBGBs circuit with strange techno acts like Von LMO. "One night they were filming a documentary for CBGBs and we were in it. This guy was a cross between Sid Vicious and Elvis Presley! Techno machine stuff". Later that evening he played a party with one string African bassist Hassan Hakmoun.

Also part of the "downtown" scene in New York, Pete did a wide variety of gigs at places like the Knitting Factory and New Music Cafe, as well as the Gas Station on lower east side, with people like Elliott Sharp and others close to the John Zorn nest.

Then Pete released his first CD ‘Other: Not Elsewhere’ and suddenly the talking got louder. Gary Chaffee and Pete would have chats on the phone and they decided to meet."I called Gary with a notation question, he said that he didn't know of such a notation and that a key would have to be used. We shared certain students and I think he heard a tape of a lesson or something. When we met we went to dinner with people from Zildjian and one of the Zildjians was there. It was at a Japanese steak house. Jonathan Mover was also there. That's about the time that Zildjian decided to endorse me.

Promo shot of Pete
When Pete spoke to Jack DeJohnette on the phone, Jack said to him "you have changed the face of drumming."

Bob Moses phoned him and they met and became great friends. "Bob came to my place and painted turtles on my drumheads." Bob told Billy Hart about Pete and Billy would go to Pete’s apartment in NYC to talk rhythm.

Dennis Chambers would turn up at Drummers Collective looking for Pete because he wanted to meet him. He would say to interviewer Ken Micallef that he didn't believe what he heard wasn't overdubbed. This was during a blindfold test. Ken assured him it was genuine as he had seen it being played in a club downtown recently.

At about the time of the release of Other: Not Elsewhere, Pete did some drum clinics in Italy and Germany. Terry Bozzio and ex-students like Zach Danziger would be mentioning Pete in articles and interviews. Pete was recognising that his interest in rhythm was even higher than his love and adoration of the drums. He was doing things like transcribing fireworks and inserting chunks of them in as fills but went to extremes regarding independence on the kit.

Pete's reputation was getting stronger and stronger and many opportunities arose. Pete looks back and says, "I didn't know what all the fuss was about at the time. I think it freaked me out and I started to make mistakes. Not musical ones, life ones - because of various dark events that occurred around the same time as all of this I made a wrong turn and started messing with things that did not serve me."

Also about this time, toward the end of his time at "The Collective", he bumped into Aquarium Rescue Unit in Florida. "We had been friends for a while and I was back stage at one of their sold out arena concerts and suddenly heard Oteil Burbridge announce me (to sit in on one of their encores) so I did it. This was at a pretty rocky time in my life and things were pretty crazy, but I remember playing a duet with Oteil and having fun grinding out an impromptu duet."

Just before his hiatus, Jim Donovan from Rusted Root asked Pete to play an outdoor concert with his group in Pittsburgh so that he could be out front on guitar. He agreed and this would end up being Pete's last musical venture for a couple of years.

He took some years away from music as a decision to focus on wellness of being and getting centred as a result of circumstances that were "needing to be addressed". Strangely, developments in rhythm still kept growing, even without the instrument's presence.

Picture of Pete during Enigma interviews
Upon his return, Pete worked with vocalist Najma Akhtar (South Asian ghazal style) in London and Israel with an Asian fusion group that she put together combining Pakistani/Indian semi-classical, folk, Sufi, Bollywood, Indian underground and trance musics together.

He did some shows with comedian Harry Hill to large sold out venues in England and Wales. Visiting friends in London, he did some drum clinics on a borrowed drum set as he had not been playing for a couple of years. About this same time, Geoff Nichols wrote in Rhythm magazine that Pete was, "Possibly the most technically advanced drummer in the world."

Then Pete started focusing back to playing again and remembers 'the gift' returning stronger than it ever was. Something Pete attributes to the 'incubator effect'.

Taking advantage of this, Pete released new, even more developed solo music which has now been documented on video.

Solo music may be heard on Pete's releases ‘Other: Not Elsewhere’ and ‘Twilight Walks Over’ both available on itunes. Be assured, these tracks are NOT OVERDUBBED and were all performed LIVE without the use of overdubs, doublers or any other extraneous effects!

Incredible feats on the instruments can be seen and heard on the ‘Pete Zeldman: Enigma’ video available at . As the head of Fluid Image (movie company), Kenny Evans says about the Enigma release, "seeing is believing and this is one that should definitely not be missed!"

Tin drumming toys featured on Enigma
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