By Jack Bowers, All About Jazz
As on its debut album, I Remember Bu, drummer / educator Ralph Peterson‘s Gen-Next Big Band, composed for the most part of students at Boston’s Berklee College of Music, pays tribute on Listen Up! to one of Peterson’s mentors, the late great Art Blakey, known far and wide as the longtime leader and sparkplug of the peerless Jazz Messengers. And as before, the band powers its way through nine formidable charts, half a dozen written by Messengers alumni and two by Peterson to complement Hoagy Carmichael’s wistful standard, “Skylark.”
Peterson is the drummer on his compositions, “Acceptance” and “The Art of War,” and shares timekeeping duties with either Christian Napoleon or Samuel Bolduc on the others (in other words, there are two drummers playing simultaneously on most numbers, which is unusual but seldom evident). Trombonist Kuumba Frank Lacy, a veteran of the Charles Mingus Band who once served as Blakey’s music director, joins the ensemble to offer crisp solos on Freddie Hubbard‘s “Down Under,” Bobby Watson‘s “In Case You Missed It” and Wayne Shorter‘s “Sweet ‘n Sour.” Chloe Brisson is the vocalist on “Sour,” as she is on “Skylark,” whose arranger, Morgan Faw, solos on alto. Watson also wrote “Time Will Tell,” Shorter “This Is for Albert,” trombonist Curtis Fuller the bright and brassy opener, “Arabia.”
For the sake of confusion, “Acceptance” and “The Art of War” are transposed on the album’s jacket, with “War” listed second, “Acceptance” ninth and last, whereas the reverse is true. There are some misspellings as well including the name of Todd Bashore (not Bayshore) who arranged “The Art of War.” Bassist Nikos Chatzitsakos is another victim, but that’s understandable. Returning to the music, it is for the most part impulsive and swinging, as Blakey no doubt would have applauded, with solos to match by Peterson’s young proteges. Peterson takes a muted trumpet solo on “Arabia,” shines on cornet (“In Case You Missed It”) and drums (“Acceptance”) and trades salvos with Napoleon on “The Art of War.” Lacy, meanwhile, is at his brash and irrepressible best on his three solo turns. While melody is for the most part subordinate to robustness and rhythm, “Arabia” and “Albert” are especially strong in that area.
Sound quality is acceptable throughout, running time a generous sixty-six minutes. In sum, another admirable recording by Peterson and his adherents who affirm once more that the future of jazz is in good hands, at least in the greater Boston area.
Track Listing: Arabia; Acceptance; Time Will Tell; Skylark; Down Under; Sweet ‘n Sour; In Case You Missed It; This Is for Albert; The Art of War.
Personnel: Ralph Peterson: conductor, drums, trumpet, cornet; Robert Vega-Dowda: trumpet; Yuta Yamagichi: trumpet; Milena Casado Faquet: trumpet; Will Mallard: trumpet; John Michael Bradford: trumpet; Eric Nakanishi: alto, soprano sax; Craig Jackson: alto sax; Solomon Alber: tenor sax; Tim Murphy: tenor sax; Gabe Nekrutman: baritone sax; Morgan Faw: alto sax solo, arranger (4); Joe Melnicove: flute; Brandon Lin: trombone; Stephan Tenney: trombone; Dean Scarlett: trombone; Ethan Santos: bass trombone; Ido Hammovich: acoustic, electric piano; Youngchae Jeong: bass; Nikos Chatzitsakos: bass; Christian Napoleon: drums; Samuel Bolduc: drums; Manfredi Caputo: percussion; Chloe Brisson: vocals (4, 6). Special guest soloist—Kuumba Frank Lacy: trombone (5-7).