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A Short Bio:
It is mainly thanks to his work with Phil Miller in the 1980's that Peter Lemer's name has become an integral part of the extremely tangled web that is the Canterbury scene. Yet Lemer has been present on the British jazz scene since the early 1960's, and in the following decade worked with bands like Gilgamesh and Pierre Moerlen's Gong, not to mention his work with the Baker-Gurvitz Army, Seventh Wave, Mike Oldfield and many jazz and jazz-rock combos.
Peter Lemer was born in London in 1942. His early training included two years at the Royal Academy of Music and workshops run by Jack Goldzweig (who had himself co-coached in NY with Mal Waldron and John Mehegan). In 1965 he formed his own trio with Jeff Clyne (bass) and John Stevens (drums), which opened the Little Theatre Club. This was followed the next year by his recorded debut as leader of the Peter Lemer Quintet, which performed at Ronnie Scott's and featured a stellar cast of John Surman, Jon Hiseman, George Khan and Tony Reeves. The resulting album, Local Colour, was released on the prestigious ESP label, and was an early milestone of the British free-jazz scene.
Also in 1966, he spent some time in New York, studying double bass with David Walter, piano with Jaki Byard and Paul Bley, and attending workshops run by Bill Dixon. Back in London, he worked with the Spontaneous Music Ensemble, an experimental improvising jazz group that paved the way for the British jazz movement of the late 1960's and early 1970's. Throughout this period, Lemer led his own group, often a trio, under the diminutive name "E", backed by the rhythm section of Johnny Dyani (bass) and Laurie Allan (drums). "The name was a reaction to the whole process of naming bands. I knew that 'E' was the most common letter in the alphabet so the least special !". "E" never released an album, although it "did a lot of home recordings, but not many gigs".
In September 1974, Peter Lemer joined Gilgamesh, the band led by fellow keyboard player Alan Gowen, long enough to record a radio session for which his extra pair of hands was needed to give justice to the music's dense orchestrations. Developing an interest for electronic keyboards, he subsequently became an in-demand session player, while gigging with Harry Beckett, Barbara Thompson, Annette Peacock and others. In 1974-75, he also gigged with rock bands - Seventh Wave, with fellow ex-Gilgamesh Steve Cook on bass, and the Baker-Gurvitz Army, which he toured extensively with between January and October 1975.
In 1976-77, Lemer led a new incarnation of his trio, again with Laurie Allan on drums but now with ex-Gong and Magma bass man Francis Moze (who also doubled on keyboards). This recorded an album (at Nick Mason's Britannia Row studios) which, sadly, was never released, and featured a guest appearance by guitarist Allan Holdsworth. "Allan and I later tried to form a band with a mysterious drummer called 'Solar' or Sebastian and Francis Moze, but that never got off the ground".
In 1979, Lemer was one of three keyboard players in Mike Oldfield's 50-piece touring band which also featured Gong drummer Pierre Moerlen. This led to him guesting on Moerlen's album Time Is The Key. In spite of his brilliant performance, he didn't join Pierre Moerlen's Gong, although he kept working with the French drummer as part of Oldfield's band until late 1980.
Much of Lemer's work in the last twenty years has been with Phil Miller's band In Cahoots, which he joined in 1983. He played on Cutting Both Ways (1987) and toured Europe extensively with the band. He left in 1987 to rejoin Barbara Thompson's Paraphernalia, notably for A Cry From The Heart (1987), Everlasting Flame (1993) and their latest offering, Shifting Sands, released in November 1998, which features writing contributions from Lemer.
Lemer worked again with Miller in subsequent years, guesting on his solo album Digging In (1991) and touring Japan with InCa later that year (as documented on the Live In Japan CD). He eventually rejoined the band on a permanent basis in 1995. Recently, he has also worked with Phil Miller in duo and trio (with Fred Baker) formats. After two In Cahoots tours (mostly in quartet format), Lemer will be devoting most of 1999 to touring with Paraphernalia in support of their recently released new album, featuring Thompson, Jon Hiseman, Paul Westwood (bass) and newcomer Billy Thompson (violin).
In the last few years, Lemer has remained a fixture of In Cahoots - he can be heard on Parallel (1996), Out Of The Blue (2001), All That (2003) and Conspiracy Theories (2006), most of which also feature his writing - as well as playing one-off gigs with old friends Steve Cook (bass) and Roger Odell (drums), recording an album with them in Israel.