By: Nate Chinen, WBGO
Art Blakey was a mentor and role model to drummer Ralph Peterson, who has devoted the last 35 years to meeting his high musical standard. The Messenger Legacy is Peterson’s most direct gesture: a repertory band featuring alumni of Blakey’s Jazz Messengers, with the underlying conviction that its music is eternal. The band’s new double album, Legacy: Alive Vol. 6 at the Side Door, will release on May 20 — Peterson’s 57th birthday, as it happens — on the Onyx Productions label.
Recorded last October, the album features trumpeter Brian Lynch, saxophonists Bobby Watson and Bill Pierce, pianist Geoffrey Keezer and bassist Essiet Essiet. All are in spectacular form on a version of “Children of the Night,” premiering here. (The song, which originally appeared on Blakey’s 1961 album Mosaic, is an early classic by Wayne Shorter — who later recorded it himself, in quite a different arrangement, for the 1995 album High Life.)
Ralph Peterson & The Messenger Legacy will appear at Jazz Alley in Seattle on May 21 and 22; at the Blue Llama Jazz Club in Ann Arbor, Mich. on May 24 and 25; and at the Kennedy Center on May 31. They hit at the Newport Jazz Festival on Aug. 3.