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Straight No Chaser - A Jazz Show

Welcome to Straight No Chaser, the Award-winning Podcast hosted by Jeffrey Siegel

May 15, 2012

Ralph Peterson had just gotten his grades into the registrar at the Berklee College of Music in Boston when we talked last week. However, the talented drummer, composer, and educator was not headed for any restful summer vacation. Instead, he is preparing for the release of his 16th CD as a leader, The Duality Perspective, and a 50th birthday party at Dizzy’s Club Coca-Cola in New York on May 21st.

The venerable drummer, who has collaborated with the likes of Terence Blanchard, Branford Marsalis, David Murray, Roy Hargrove, Jon Faddis, Michael Brecker, Steve Coleman and Betty Carter over a nearly thirty-year career - not to mention being hand-picked by Art Blakey as the second drummer in the legendary bandleader's Jazz Messenger Big Band until Blakey's 1990 death – has recorded with an organ trio, fo'tet, quintet and sextet in the past few years. His bands often include his students at Berklee, who hope to eventually follow in the footsteps of his past mentees, who include the well-regarded Sean Jones, the Curtis Brothers, and Tia Fuller.

The Duality Perspective is split between his latest Fo’tet, which includes rising stars Felix Peikli (clarinet),  Jospeph Doubleday (vibes) and Alexander L.J. Toth (bass), and his sextet, which is an all-star affair. Sextet members are all leading bands these days, and feature trumpeter Sean Jones, saxophonists Tia Fuller and Walter Smith III, bassist Luques Curtis and his brother, pianist Zaccai Curtis.

The new CD is a strong one, using higher register instruments like the soprano sax and vibes to great effect, as Peterson takes the players though their paces. The material is uniformly interesting, including revisions of past Peterson works.

Peterson is justifiably proud of his past work, and looking forward to the future with gusto. Click here to listen to our conversation, including musical selections from the new CD and other Peterson recordings:

Ralph Peterson Quintet – “Art of Blakey” from Art. Peterson is a Blakey discipline in two senses – his playing, and his desire to mentor and develop young talent through his bands. This CD was dedicated to the master drummer’s memory, and features a core of Peterson on drums, cornetist Graham Haynes, Steve Wilson on soprano and alto sax, pianist Michele Rosewoman and bassist Phil Bowler

Ralph Peterson Fo’tet – “Bamboo Bends in the Storm” from The Duality Perspective. A song with great meaning for Ralph, as it relates to his personal and professional career and their ups and downs. The young lions assembled to join him in this edition of the Fo’tet include Felix Peikli (clarinet),  Jospeph Doubleday (vibes) and Alexander L.J. Toth (bass).

Ralph Peterson Sextet – “Coming Home” from The Duality Perspective.  This portion of the CD was a reunion of sorts, as in-demand former band mates returned to play sideman for Ralph. The band features trumpeter Sean Jones, saxophonists Tia Fuller and Walter Smith III, bassist Luques Curtis  and his brother, pianist Zaccai Curtis.

Ralph Peterson’s Unit Project – “The Moontrane” from Ralph Peterson’s Unit Project. To pay  tribute to Larry Young and Woody Shaw’s classic Unity album, Peterson put together an organ-based band that included Josh Evans on trumpet, Jovan Alexandre on tenor sax and Pat Bianchi on Hammond B-3.

Mark Elf – “Mr. Suave” from Over the Airwaves. Peterson called this underrated guitarist “a bad cat” – the highest praise from a veteran jazz musician. Check out this trio cut, which includes  Peterson on drums and Jay Leonhart on bass.

Don Byron – “Next Love” from Tuskegee Experiments. Renaissance man Byron has played it all, from R&B to Classical to Klezmer to Modern Jazz.  Peterson was with him in his formative years, and played on this exceptional CD in a band composed of Byron on Clarinet, Lonnie Plaxico on bass, Bill Frisell on guitar, Edsel Gomez on piano and Peterson on drums.