By George W. Harris, Jazz Weekly
If you’ve never heard any albums by Hard Bop’s progenitor Art Blakey, this two disc live session with drummer/leader Ralph Peterson is an excellent place to begin. He gives a tribute to the famed drummer’s sound and songbook with alumni including Bill Pierce/ts, Bobby Watson/as, Brian Lynch/tp, Geoffrey Keezer/p and bassist Essiet Essiet, and the concert from The Side Door Jazz Club was a reminder of a) how wonderful Hard Bop from vintage era Blue Note Records still sounds and b) how far we’ve come from modern jazz’s Golden Era.
Peterson’s drum work is as muscular as Blakey’s, even throwing in a few of the patented press rolls and snappy snares on the crisp “A La Mode” and the thundering intro to “In Case You Missed It.” The rhythm team sizzles to Keezer’s modal moorings and Watson’s wails on his “Wheel Within A Wheel” and Keezer is again featured on the dark and dramatic “That Ole Feeling.” The classic militaristic “Blues March” has Pierce and Essiet leading the squad, with the bassist laying down a hip pulse for the big and bold Lynch on “The Core.” The team cruises like a VB Buick on pieces like the sleek “Along Came Betty” and the volcanic “Children Of The Night” with every unison front line of the them packed with a Joe Frazier punch. This is music for the macho, macho, macho man!