Dee Dee McNeil, Musical Memoirs

RALPH PETERSON’S GENNEXT BIG BAND – “I REMEMBER BU” Onyx Productions & Music Label

Ralph Peterson, drums/cornet/Conductor; Antoni Vaquer & Dabin Ryu, Piano; Youngchae Jeong, bass; Julian Pardo, Karol Zabka & Jas Kayser, drums; SAXOPHONES: Eric Nakanishi, lead alto; Devin Daniels,2nd alto; Tim Murphey, 1st tenor; Jake Hirsch, 2nd tenor; Gabe Nekrutman, baritone saxophone; Tomoki Sanders, tenor sax. TROMBONES: Elliot Alexander Brown, lead trombone; Brandon Lin, 2nd; Alan Hsiao, 3rd; Will Mallard, 4th. TRUMPETS: Jon Weidley, lead; Robert Vega Dowda, 2nd; Milena Casado Fauquet, 3rd; Will Mallard, 4th. Ryan Easter, rapper.

An exciting drum solo opens this CD featuring the talents of Ralph Peterson Jr. The tune is called “Uranus” and it’s a spirited number showcasing the dynamic Donald Harrison on saxophone as a special guest. Peterson is employing Art Blakey’s concept with the usage of a two-drummer format to propel his Gennext Big Band. As you may know, Donald Harrison is from the alumni of Art Blakey, as is conductor/ drummer, Ralph Peterson Jr. It was in 1983 that Peterson joined Art Blakey’s Jazz Messenger group as a second drummer. They worked together for several years. Now, like Blakey did, Ralph Peterson Jr., continues a jazz legacy of inspiring and mentoring youthful musicians. This ‘Gennext’ Big Band is made up of mostly Berklee College of Music musicians. They are some of the brightest and best examples of the next generation of jazz talent.

“Uranus” whirls and twirls around, like the planet itself, with arrangements that are on fire! It’s a great way to open this exquisitely well produced album of music. Donald Harrison brings not only straight-ahead saxophone bliss, but also his “Nouveau Jazz” style to this recording. His Nouveau jazz is described as embracing genres like Hip Hop, smooth jazz and R&B. That has got to inspire and encourage the younger generation of musicians who enjoy such a variety of styles and relish mixing the music up. On the sixth cut, “Egyptian Dune Dance” a rapper Ryan Easter is added, and the horn lines bounce around in a repeatable dance throughout. However, for the most part, this music is big band, straight-ahead jazz with a heavy swing groove. Youngchae Jeong is featured during a memorable bass solo on the “Little Man” tune. His tone and timing are first-rate. The tune, “For Paul,” proffers a stellar arrangement that supports an amazing execution by both Donald Harrison and Tomoki Sanders on saxophones. I also enjoyed Elliot Alexander Brown on lead trombone featured on “Ms. BC” playing at a maddening pace. From the spontaneous applause, the ‘live’ audience was thrilled by their performance as well.

The Wayne Shorter composition, “Free for All,” is also played at a sparkling speed that demands the listener’s attention, moving bright as a shooting star. The horn lines fly like startled birds, harmoniously punching the melody and laying the foundation for Donald Harrison’s alto saxophone solo. Jon Weidley on lead trumpet also establishes his formidable style. There is a stellar drum solo for the drummers to dynamically dance in the spotlight. Three drummers are listed on the CD jacket, along with conductor Peterson, of course. They are: Julian Pardo, Karol Zabka and Jas Kayser. Nothing was listed on the CD jacket, so I’m not sure which ones were featured on this tune, but whoever played was absolutely awesome! I was exhausted from just listening to this composition. The energy was contagious.

Ralph Peterson has composed one tune on this production and it is the title tune, “I Remember Bu.” This song is a lovely ballad, but for the most part you will be swinging to energetic big band recordings that celebrate the excitement only an orchestra can muster. This entire project is illuminating and entertaining. The diversity of song choices and the beautiful arrangements that these talented young people interpret make for a listening feast of delicious sounds. Donald Harrison is the hot sauce, but the meat of the matter and the center piece of this musical meal are the extraordinary talents of conductor/drummer, Ralph Peterson Jr. and the way he serves it up.

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