Oct 9, 2013
Perhaps the hottest band on tour right now is an elite lineup of former members of one of jazz’s most influential bands, Art Blakey’s Jazz Messengers. The Messenger Legacy features bassist Reggie Workman, alto saxophonist Donald Harrison, trumpeter Brian Lynch, tenor saxophonist Billy Pierce, pianist Donald Brown, and drummer Ralph Peterson. Together they honor their former boss with an evening of Messenger music, some of the finest and most moving jazz of all-time.
Talking to these musicians, one quickly learns that they wish to preserve, protect, and honor the legacy of a man who was much more than a bandleader to all of them. One can only hope that hearing this collection of legends will launch renewed appreciation for one of the most important institutions of apprenticeship in American music history.
About forming the group, Peterson said, “Every time I play the drums it is in tribute to Art, but I wanted to do something that goes beyond me, beyond any individual. I wanted to pay tribute in a way that was authentic, genuine, and meaningful not just to a few, but to every person he touched through his music.” Peterson was hand-picked by Blakey to take on the drummer’s chair in the Jazz Messengers in 1983, and he continues to carry the torch set by his mentor. His most recent CD is ALIVE at Firehouse 12, featuring Peterson’s Unity Project, which includes Craig Handy on sax, Josh Evans on trumpet and Jake Sherman on Hammond Organ.
Workman, now 76years old, has held down the bass spot in bands led by John Coltrane, Thelonious Monk, Wayne Shorter, Archie Shepp and Pharaoah Sander,s to name just a few. He was part of the Jazz Messengers in the mid-Sixties, and recorded with perhaps the most talented group of players in that decade: Freddie Hubbard on trumpet, Shorter on tenor sax, Curtis Fuller on trombone, Cedar Walton on piano, and Blakey on drums.
Podcast 383 is my free-wheeling conversation with Peterson and Workman, as they reminisce about Art Blakey, talk about their goals for this project, and generally have a great time. Musical selections for this podcast include:
Art Blakey & The Jazz Messengers – Title Track from Free for All. Peterson calls this Messenger’s album the greatest studio recording of all-time. Featuring “that band of Hubbard on trumpet, Shorter on tenor sax, Fuller on trombone, Walton on piano, and Blakey on drums.
Art Blakey & The Jazz Messengers – “The Egyptian” from Indestructible. “That band” released a handful of recordings, including this lesser known track.
Ralph Peterson, Jr. “4 in 1” from The Duality Perspective. Peterson’s recording from last year brought a number of his former students back into the fold for a wonderful album. This track, featuring odd meters and great blowing, featuring Peterson: drums; Joseph Doubleday: vibraphone; Alexander L.J. Toth: bass; Felix Peiki: clarinet, bass clarinet; Luques Curtis: bass; Zaccai Curtis: piano; Sean Jones: trumpet; Walter Smith III: tenor saxophone; and Tia Fuller: alto saxophone, soprano saxophone.