The Gen-Next Big Band: I Remember Bu: Alive Vol. 4 at Scullers
Street Date: October 4, 2018
Release Show: October 4, Scullers, Boston, MA
Label: Onyx Productions

Aggregate Prime: Inward Venture: Alive Vol. 5 at the Side Door
Street Date: October 17, 2018
Pre-Release Show: September 29, Beantown Jazz Fest, Boston, MA
CD Release Shows: October 17-18, Jazz Standard, NYC
Label: Onyx Productions

Messenger Legacy Band: Alive Volume 6 at the Side Door
Street Date: May 20, 2019
Release Show: May 31, The John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts, Washington, DC & August 3, Newport Jazz Festival
Label: Onyx Productions

When it comes to Art Blakey, there is no living drummer more suited to honoring his legacy than the incomparable Ralph Peterson. As the last drummer chosen by Blakey to play by his side in the Jazz Messengers Two Drummer Big Band, Peterson is tasked with the unique responsibility to carry forth Buhaina’s torch and tradition. On Legacy: Alive Vol. 6 at the Side Door, the mission comes full circle as Peterson and the Messenger Legacy Band mark what would have been the icon’s 100th birthday. Due out on May 20 (RP’s 57th birthday) on Peterson’s own Onyx Productions label, Legacy presents Peterson in the company of five undisputed authorities and alumni of the Blakey tradition: saxophonists Bill Pierce and Bobby Watson, trumpeter Brian Lynch, pianist Geoffrey Keezer, and bassist Essiet Essiet. This double album was recorded live in October 2018 at the Side Door in Old Lyme, Connecticut.

 

To mark this new release, the Messenger Legacy will be performing at the Bach Dancing and Dynamite Society in Half Moon Bay, CA on May 19th, Jazz Alley in Seattle, WA on May 21 and 22 and the Blue Llama Jazz Club in Ann Arbor, MI on May 24 and 25. This national run will culminate on May 31 when the Legacy Messenger Band will perform at the Terrace Theater at the Kennedy Center in Washington, DC. In June, the group will perform in Melbourne, Australia at Bird’s Basement (June 5-9) and in Beijing, China at the Blue Note (June 13 and 14). The Messenger Legacy will perform as part of the Newport Jazz Festival on Saturday, August 3rd!

 

The release of Legacy comes during a particularly prolific period in Peterson’s career. This is the sixth edition in his “Alive” series of live recordings and his third release in six months. In October, Onyx Productions released the I Remember Bu: Alive Vol. 4 at Scullers with the GenNext Big Band and Inward Venture: Alive Vol. 5 at the Side Door with this quintet Aggregate Prime. Both albums received widespread international attention and resulted in features in Downbeat Magazine and Jazziz Magazine, among others.

 

Russ Musto sums up Legacy: Alive Volume 6 at the Side Door best through his thorough and engaging liner notes:

 

The legacy of Art Blakey and the Jazz Messengers is a living breathing tradition of hard swinging music carried on by the many players that have come through the ranks of what was arguably the greatest small group in the history of jazz.  Blakey began his storied career as a pianist in his native Pittsburgh, but quickly switched to the drum kit and made a name for himself playing swing rhythms in the tradition of mentors Chick Webb and Big Sid Catlett with the Fletcher Henderson Big Band.  It was during his tenure with the legendary Billy Eckstine Orchestra driving the ensemble featuring the likes of Dizzy Gillespie, Charlie Parker, Fats Navarro, Gene Ammons, Dexter Gordon and other giants of the nascent bebop movement that his powerful approach to his instrument came to be fully formed and it his work with many of the group’s players that set a standard for the revolutionary new music that grew with the band’s dissolution.

Blakey tried his hand forming his own big band The Seventeen Messengers for a short time in the late forties, but it was as a leader of small groups that he ushered his name into the jazz history books.  On the live recording A Night At Birdland, with Clifford Brown, Lou Donaldson, Horace Silver and Curley Russell the drummer can be heard saying, “When these guys get too old I’ll get some young ones,” and that proclamation became the blueprint of the thirty-five years run of the Jazz Messengers that began with trumpeter Donald Byrd, Hank Mobley, Silver and Doug Watkins and went on to include many of the greatest names in jazz, including Kenny Dorham, Benny Golson, Lee Morgan, Wayne Shorter, Bobby Timmons, Freddie Hubbard, Curtis Fuller, Cedar Walton, Reggie Workman, Wynton and Branford Marsalis, Terrence Blanchard, Donald Harrison and dozens of others, including the gentlemen heard on this recording.

Drummer Ralph Peterson holds the rare distinction of being one of the very few drummers selected by Blakey to enter the ranks of the Jazz Messengers.  A favorite of Blakey from his early days as an acolyte following in the drummer’s footsteps Peterson played in the two drummer big band featuring trumpeters John Faddis, Terence Blanchard and Wynton Marsalis; trombonists Robin Eubanks and Kevin Weavers; saxophonists Donald Harrison, Jean Toussaint, Doug Miller and Branford Marsalis; pianist Johnny O'Neal and bassist Charles Fambrough that made its debut at The Boston Globe Jazz Festival on March 21, 1983.  He would go on to hold down that drum chair with future formations of the group that performed at the Mount Fuji Jazz Festival and other locations during the final three years of Blakey’s life.

In his role of carrying on the Blakey tradition Peterson has put together a fiery ensemble featuring five fellow alumni of the Jazz Messengers who continue to advance the cause of contemporary mainstream jazz as leaders in their own right.  Of the group, alto saxophonist Bobby Watson was the first to enter illustrious pantheon of Jazz Messengers, making his recording debut with the group in 1977 on the Gypsy Folk Tales album that marked the resurgence of band as one of the premier units of the day.  Tenor saxophonist Bill Pierce would join Watson in the Messenger front line in 1980, making his first appearances on Messenger Big Band Live at Montreux and Northsea and Album Of The Year records that introduced the world to Wynton Marsalis.  The group’s remaining members trumpeter Brian Lynch, pianist Geoffrey Keezer and bassist Essiet Essiet were all members of the final edition of the Jazz Messengers that played with Blakey until his death at the age of 71 on October 16th, 1990.

The music on this double disc, culled from the voluminous Jazz Messengers discography of more than one hundred albums, was recorded live at The Side Door in Old Lyme, Connecticut on October 12th and 13th in 2018, following the band’s debut at Scullers in Boston the previous night, on what have been Blakey’s 99th birthday.  The group’s performances of these classic compositions remain true to the Messenger style of no holds barred energized soloing on lyrical melodic lines with Peterson indefatigably stoking the flames employing the Blakey rhythmic lexicon of driving press rolls and rim shots, exciting tonally sophisticated tom-tom patterns, a relentless sock cymbal beat and ass kicking bass drum accents.

Disc One opens with Curtis Fuller’s “Ala Mode,” the easy grooving piece that first appeared on the Jazz Messengers!!! Impulse album on which Fuller made his debut with the transitional unit with Lee Morgan, Wayne Shorter, Bobby Timmons and Jymie Merritt that first expanded the group to its sextet configuration. Bobby Watson’s lilting waltz “Wheel Within A Wheel”, first recorded on the Montreux/Northsea record firmly established the alto saxophonist as one of the premier composers of his generation. Freddie Hubbard’s “The Core,” a dedication to the Congress of Racial Equality civil rights action group that appeared on 1964’s Mosaic album is one of the most powerful pieces out of the Messenger repertoire.  “My One And Only Love” was a favorite of Blakey’s that was often heard as one of the band’s nightly ballad features for saxophonist Bill Pierce. Curtis Fuller’s arrangement of the nursery rhyme “Three Blind Mice”, the title track of the 1962 Messenger album was an unexpected hit for the band.  The date’s first disc concludes with “Blues March,” the Benny Golson classic written for Blakey for the Moanin’ album that remained in the Messenger book right until the band’s final days.

Disc Two starts off with “In Case You Missed It,” another Watson gem; one that plays off the theme of Ronnie Laws disco era hit “Always There.” It’s followed by Golson’s “Along Came Betty,” a second classic from the Moanin’ album that like “Blues March” remained a perennial favorite with Messenger musicians and fans from its 1958 introduction into the band’s book right up to the groups final performances.  Wayne Shorter’s “Children Of The Night” is another powerhouse piece from the band’s Mosaic album. The Broadway standard “That Old Feeling” by Sammy Fain and Lew Brown found its way into the Messenger repertory as a feature for Cedar Walton on the Three Blind Mice date. Here it offers Keezer and Essiet the opportunity to step into the spotlight while the front line takes an opportunity to relax their chops.  The disc comes to an exciting finish with the classic Messenger arrangement of the Juan Tizol Ellington warhorse “Caravan” that features as Blakey liked to say “no one in particular,” with explosive statements by Lynch, Watson, Pierce, Keezer and finally Peterson.

In this centennial year marking the 100th anniversary of the birth of Art Blakey the music generated under the banner of his Jazz Messengers remains alive and well and advancing into the future with Ralph Peterson and the Messenger Legacy leading the way for generations to come to heed the message Blakey proudly proclaimed: “That anyone who passes through life without checking out this music has truly missed something.”  So spread the word and remember, as Art would say, “Tell your square friends. They got all the money.”

 

Tour Dates:

Tour Dates:

Sun. May 19th, 2019

Half Moon, CA

Bach Dancing and Dynamite Society

Tues. & Wed. May 21st & 22nd, 2019

Seattle, WA

Jazz Alley

Fri. May 24th & Sat. May 25th, 2019

Ann Arbor, MI

Blue Llama Jazz Club

Fri. May 31st, 2019

Washington DC

The Kennedy Center

Tues. - Sun. Jun. 5th-9th, 2019

Melbourne, Australia

Bird’s Basement

Thurs. Jun. 13th & Fri. Jun.14th, 2019

Beijing, China

Blue Note

Sat. July 13th, 2019

Sani, Greece

Sani Festival

Sun. July 14th, 2019

Umbria, Italy

Umbria Jazz Festival

Sat. Aug. 3rd, 2019

Newport, RI

Newport Jazz Festival

Thurs. Oct. 10th, 2019

Pittsburgh, PA

August Wilson Cultural Center

Fri. Oct. 11th - Sun. Oct. 13th, 2019

Old Lyme, CT

Side Door Jazz Club (Live Recording)

Fri. May 1st, 2020

New York, NY

Jazz at Lincoln Center

 

For Messenger Legacy

 
 

SCOTT YANOW
L.A. JAZZ SCENE
"The Messenger Legacy Sextet’s performance was one that no Art Blakey fan should have missed." Read the full show review here.

MATT SILVER
WRTI
" [With] I Remember Bu, Peterson shows that even when paying homage to an old master, he’s all about paying it forward to mentor the next generation of great jazzers."  Read the full review here.

JACKSON SINNENBERG
CAPITALBOP
"Behind the kit, Peterson is vigorous and unrelenting, washing his entire band in polyrhythm in the manner of ‘60s and ‘70s greats like Elvin Jones and Tony Williams." Read the full performance announcement here.

NATE CHINEN
WBGO
"This performance opens with a Peterson solo that establishes, with avowedly Blakey-esque flair, the form of the piece." Read the WBGO exclusive for "In Case You Missed It" here.

For The Gen-Next Big Band: I Remember Bu: Alive Vol. 4 at Scullers

SIMON ADAMS
JAZZ JOURNAL
"Playing with Art Blakey in his big band in Boston 1983 transformed drummer Ralph Peterson’s musical life, so much so that 35 years later he grabbed “the chance to pass a similar experience on to these amazing young musicians”. Read the full review here.

DEE DEE MCNEIL
MUSICAL MEMOIRS
"...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." Read the full review here.

GEORGE KANZLER
NEW YORK CITY JAZZ RECORD
"It all makes for an exciting, exhilarating and exhaustively entertaining big band workout." Read the full review here.

CHRIS SPECTOR
MIDWEST RECORD
"...this blazing set just plain smokes throughout."

JACK BOWERS
ALL ABOUT JAZZ
"Blakey loved big bands and surely would have appreciated this heartfelt tribute by a self-assured and talented group of young musicians." Read the full review here.

MICHAEL J. WEST
JAZZIZ
Read full "The Rough Road to Immortality" feature here.

MIKE GREENBLATT
AQUARIAN WEEKLY
"Dedicated To Art “Bu” Blakey I Remember Bu (Onyx Production) is the two-fisted action-packed storm of a debut CD by Ralph Peterson’s Gennext Big Bandas recorded live in Boston at Sculler’s, one of the best jazz rooms in the country." Read the full review here.

GEORGE HARRIS
JAZZ WEEKLY
"Blakey would have liked this album, as he loved having younger players surrounding him." Read the full review here.

DAN BILAWSKY
JAZZTIMES
"These fledgling musicians are hungry, and you can sense that in the sound and soul of their performances." Read the full review here.

 
 

D. OSCAR GROOMES
O'S PLACE JAZZ NEWSLETTER
"Donald Harrison is the featured soloist on 5 of 9 vibrant selections and they all sizzle!...Blakey would be proud."

For Aggregate Prime: Inward Venture: Alive Vol. 5 at the Side Door

DOWNBEAT
BILL MILKOWSKI
"Both big band and quintet recordings represent different aspects of Peterson's voracious musical appetite." Read the full Downbeat feature here.

NATE CHINEN
WBGO
"The album — Inward Venture: Alive Vol. 5 at the Side Door (Onyx Music) — has all of the brash kinetic energy you’d expect from such an assemblage." Listen to the track premiere for "L's Bop" here.

GEORGE KANZLER
NEW YORK CITY JAZZ RECORD
"Peterson's peripatetic interaction with, especially, guitar and tenor enlivens the proceedings, as he is never just an accompanist but often a co- or supportive soloist himself." Read the full review here

NELSON BRILL
BOSTON CONCERT REVIEWS
"One band that stood out in its fresh funk and energy was Aggregate Prime, a quintet anchored by the magnetic drummer (and Berklee faculty member) Ralph Peterson." Read more here.

CHRIS SPECTOR
MIDWEST RECORD
"Purely hot stuff for the discerning jazzbo, this gang knows how to play at the top of their form at the drop of a hat.  Smoking stuff throughout that never lets you down." Read the full review here.

MICHAEL J. WEST
JAZZIZ
Read full "The Rough Road to Immortality" feature here.

 
 

GEORGE HARRIS
JAZZ WEEKLY
"This guy must have a garage full of shovels, because he knows how to dig deep!" Read the full review here.

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