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Undervalued pianist on the British jazz sceneCopyright © 2002The Scotsman
Pianist Pete Jacobsen never achieved the degree of public recognition his talents deserved, but he was held in the highest regard by his fellow musicians. His most fruitful musical relationship was arguably in the band led by Scottish tenor saxophonist Bobby Wellins, with whom he worked from the late 1970 onwards.
Jacobsen appeared on several of Wellinss recordings, including Jubilation (1978), Dreams Are Free (1979), and Birds of Brazil (1989), and remained a regular member of the saxophonists bands into the 1990s.
He was born Peter Paul George Jacobsen in Newcastle. He lost his sight as a baby when a growth behind his optic nerve left him blind, but developed a remarkable ability to memorise even complex big band arrangements by ear alone.
He began piano as a small child, and studied at Worcester School for the Blind before returning to his native north-east, where he formed his own jazz trio and appeared on local television as a teenage prodigy. He moved to London in 1969, and studied organ at the Royal Academy of Music until 1972, and briefly thereafter at Durham University.
He immersed himself in the London jazz scene, earning a reputation as a pianist of great strength, invention, refinement and adaptability. He had perfect pitch, absorbed music like a sponge, and was capable of working in virtually any genre of music.
He began to play with luminaries of the jazz fusion scene of the day, notably saxophonist Barbara Thompson and guitarist Gary Boyle, and later has a stint with the celebrated Morrissey-Mullen, a very successful band jointly led by the late Dick Morrissey and another Scottish jazz star, guitarist Jim Mullen.
He worked with a number of noted saxophonists, including Bobby Wellins, Don Weller, Chris Biscoe, Alan Skidmore, and Tim Whitehead, and accompanied visiting artists like bassist Eberhard Weber and American trombonist Jimmy Knepper.
As a pianist he possessed great technical and musical resources, and was always willing to place himself in a challenging musical situation. At the same time, he was equally ready to accept a gig accompanying singers in pubs and clubs in London and in Essex, some of whom were not worthy of his talents.
He lived alone, and was known as a fiercely independent personality. He toured Australia in March with the Celtic-jazz band Carmina, and recorded with them in Ireland, but his health was clearly failing. His final tour with the Tim Whitehead Quartet took place in April.