Ralph Peterson and the Messenger Legacy: Onward & Upward
Release Date: September 18, 2020
Label: Onyx Productions

The Gen-Next Big Band: Listen Up!
Release Date: November 12, 2019
Label: Onyx Productions

Messenger Legacy Band: Alive Volume 6 at the Side Door
Release Date: May 20, 2019
Label: Onyx Productions

Aggregate Prime: Inward Venture: Alive Vol. 5 at the Side Door
Release Date: October 17, 2018
Label: Onyx Productions

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

Master drummer Ralph Peterson continues to advance the continuum of his late mentor Art Blakey on Onward & Upward, his ambitious and expansive 25th release as a leader. On this historical release Peterson brings together 14 former Jazz Messengers and three Legacy Messengers to write a new page in the Jazz Messenger songbook. Spearheaded by Peterson, the expansive lineup on Onward & Upward features Joanne Brackeen, Kevin Eubanks, Robin Eubanks, Essiet Essiet, Steve Davis, Craig Handy, Philip Harper, Brian Lynch, Lonnie Plaxico, Bill Pierce, Melissa Slocum, Jean Toussaint, Peter Washington, and, in the spirit of mentorship, rising pianists Zaccai Curtis and Anthony Wonsey and percussionist Reinaldo DeJesus.

Last year, Ralph Peterson and the Messenger Legacy released their first recording Legacy: Alive Volume 6 at the Side Door. With Bill Pierce, Brian Lynch, Bobby Watson, Geoffrey Keezer, Essiet Essiet and with Peterson in the drum chair, Legacy went on to receive worldwide acclaim and was regarded as one of the top releases of the year. Onward & Upward continues this trajectory. Says Peterson: “‘Onward and Upward’ is a phrase I got from my Rutgers Trumpet Professor and mentor Bill Fielder. This project, for me, is the natural and necessary next step in keeping alive one of the most important musical and bandleader producing legacies in American music history. It felt like a conclave for a group of artists that is finite and distinctive. The spirit of Buhaina was present and felt by everyone.”

While Onward & Upward is rooted in the Blakey tradition, it is decidedly forward-thinking as it features all new material written by the band members. As writer Michael J. West says in his liner notes, Blakey’s tutelage was about martialing creative resources and asserting individuality. 

He kept his signature tunes in the set, but he also required his musicians to compose and arrange—to replenishing the repertoire. That demand for fresh ideas and personal development while also honoring the jazz tradition? That’s the real Messenger Legacy. “He wouldn’t have had us stick to playing ‘One by One’ and ‘Blues March’ and ‘Children of the Night!’” says Peterson. “It’s great to play and honor those tunes. But to write a new page in the Jazz Messengers songbook, that’s what Art expected of us.” 

This new chapter in the Messenger songbook bears all the hallmarks of the Messengers including the variety of colors, the polyrhythms, the harmonies, the vast reservoirs of blues and soul, and the importance of continuity and telling a story. “There was no piece of music that didn’t fit what the record was saying,” Peterson says. “As each new piece came in, it was apparent that cats were looking at what had already been presented, and looking to fill stylistic, idiomatic or compositional gaps in the arc of the record.” 

The choice to include seventeen musicians on this project was deliberate. While most of the tracks are performed by a sextet (with the exception of one quintet and one septet), the total number of seventeen harkens back to Blakey’s first foray into leading a working band: a circa-1947 large ensemble called the Seventeen Messengers. Even as Peterson and the band extend the tradition, they also bring it full circle. That, too, is the Messenger Legacy. “I feel so fortunate to have been able to gather these amazing musicians for this project. Our relationships span close to four decades. I am eternally grateful for the high level of musicianship and professionalism demonstrated by these artists,” says Peterson. 

Fully aware that modern history was being made, Peterson had the foresight to ensure that the entire two day recording session (which took place right before the COVID-19 lockdown in early March) was recorded and filmed. Leading up to the September street date, Onyx Productions will be releasing exclusive, on-site interviews with the participants as well as two full-length videos. 

For Onward & Upward

FILIPE FREITAS
JAZZTRAIL
"This feel-good album honors and respects Blakey’s idiomatic expressions but doesn’t dwell on it. There’s a lot of freshness coming from this new material." Read this article here.

JIM HYNES
GLIDE MAGAZINE
  Read this article here.

 

MONIFA BROWN
WBGO
"Drummer Ralph Peterson continues to usher mentor Art Blakey's legacy into a new century." Read the FALL PREVIEW here.

PAUL RAUCH
ALL ABOUT JAZZ
"This is a marvelous effort, featuring sparkling new compositions performed by some of the best modern jazz has to offer. It swings like mad from the outset to its dynamic finish. The fact that it is attached to a great legacy makes it that much more intriguing." Read this article here.

 

MATT MICUCCI
JAZZIZ
“Forth and Back” is the second single from Ralph Peterson and the Messenger Legacy’s Onward & Upward." Read this article here.

MATT MICUCCI
JAZZIZ
Ralph Peterson Expands The Messenger Legacy with Upcoming Album: Master drummer Ralph Peterson has done much over the years to keep the memory of Art Blakey and the Jazz Messengers alive. Read the full feature here.

DARRYL YOKLEY
OCCHI MAGAZINE
"The full interview, recorded on May 17th, 2020 is on our Occhi Magazine YouTube channel. Here, you can get further backstories and further history on Ralph. This is the first part of this interview and I look forward to circling back with maestro Peterson in the near future to have him answer some other burning questions we at Occhi magazine have for him. ‘El Grito’, his single from the upcoming album Onward and Upward is available now, and be sure to visit www.ralphpetersonmusic.com for all the latest!  I want to thank Ralph for his time and all the knowledge and history he has been so generous with, and I’m looking forward to round two!" Read the full interview here.

 

TOMAS PEÑA
JAZZDELAPENA
Fully aware that modern history was being made, Peterson had the foresight to ensure that the entire two-day recording session (which took place right before the COVID-19 lockdown in early March) was recorded and filmed. Read this article here.

 

ANDY HAMILTON
THE WIRE
"There's a high standard throughout, with the Latin "El Grito" a standout." Review in the September 2020 edition of The Wire. 

TOM HENRY
THE TOLEDO BLADE
"The lush and cool-groove vibe is consistently fun, with a mellow aura and a number of moments for improvisation." Review here

CHRIS SPECTOR
MIDWEST RECORDS
"An homage and tribute to Art Blakey while blowing the dust off everything and looking toward the future, the only thing that's a real piece of the past is the daddio vibe. This is a jazz history lesson all by itself. Hot stuff. Read this article here.

 

JEFF TAMARKIN
JAZZTIMES
"Peterson is savvy enough to ensure that the proceedings never get dull, and he changes things up often enough throughout the program’s course to keep reminding the listener of Blakey’s influence while staying firmly rooted in the present." Read this review here.

For Listen Up!

GARY FUKUSHIMA
DOWNBEAT"
Most of the arrangements were done by Berklee students, a testament to that school’s well-established curriculum. And while no wheels are reinvented here, they are well-oiled, easily spinning out professional-grade work. Lacy and Peterson provide the star power, but they’re pushed by the relentless enthusiasm of the younger players. Somewhere, Blakey’s roaring approval through an angelic grin."
Read the full review here.

JACK BOWERS
ALL BOUT JAZZ
"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."  Read the full review here.

DEE DEE MCNEIL
MUSICAL MEMOIRS'S BLOG
"Ralph Peterson’s Gen-Next Big Band is a wonderful listening experience and made me want to grab my flat shoes and a swing-dance partner, then hurry to the dance floor! Congratulations are in order to each of these young musicians who contributed to an excellent project in an entirely professional way."   Read the full review here.

 

JOEL ROBERTS
NEW YORK CITY JAZZ RECORD
"Mentoring the next generation of jazz musicians was one of Blakey's greatest contributions and Peterson continues that tradition on his second new release, 'Listen Up!'  Read the full review here.

NELSON BRILL
BOSTON CONCERT REVIEWS
“The young recording team at Power Station/Berklee NYC has done a fine job capturing this big band in all their youthful, brimming glory on this new recording." Full review here

JIM HYNES
GLIDE MAGAZINE
“When you think of Blakey, you likely think of smaller ensembles rather than a big band. Don’t let that be a barrier. As we noted, Blakey’s classic sound is here in all its glory, even bigger and brighter." Full review here

MIKE GREENBLATT
AQUARIAN WEEKLY
"This is intense, challenging, sophisticated, and wholly exciting music." Full review here

MATT SILVER
WRTI
JAZZ ALBUM OF THE WEEK! “... the last couple Gen-Next albums are proof positive that Ralph Peterson, drawing on lessons from the old master, has started building something special of his own." Full review here

MIKE HOBART
FINANCIAL TIMES
"The jazz big band tradition remains niche, but continues to evolve. Drummer Ralph Peterson’s Gen-Next Big Band’s double album Listen Up!, released on the Onyx label, gives small-group modern jazz orchestral weight. Great arrangements, fresh solos and Berklee college students playing like seasoned pros." Article here

For Messenger Legacy

RUTH FISHER
JAZZFM
"Cadogan Hall is going to rock with the sound of Ralph’s propulsive drumming accompanied by a stellar line up of musicians in his band! I can’t wait!" Read full London Jazz Fest recommendation here

RITA CHARLESTON
THE PHILADELPHIA TRIBUNE
"Besides his incomparable talent behind the drum kit, and collaborating with the likes of Branford Marsalis, Roy Hargrove, Betty Carter and many others, Peterson was hand-picked by the late, great Art Blakey as only the second drummer in the legendary bandleader’s Jazz Messenger Big Band until Blakey’s death in 1990." Read the full feature here.

SHAUN BRADY
THE PHILADELPHIA INQUIRER 
“Mortality focuses the mind,” Peterson said from the road, where he spends so much of his time. “Everybody dies. What matters is what people will remember about your work and what you left behind a hundred years after you were born. That’s what matters.”  Read full feature here

JOEL ROBERTS
NEW YORK CITY JAZZ RECORD
"Few are better suited to lead a tribute to the legendary drummer and bandleader Art Blakey than veteran drummer Ralph Peterson, the only drummer to play alongside him..."  Read the full review here.

JOHN FORDHAM
JAZZWISE
“The players keep faith with the tradition rather than chancing any 21st century genre-bends, but it was a great tradition, celebrated with expert devotion here." Full review here

JON ROSS
DOWNBEAT
"This double disc set proves that the passage of time has done nothing to mute the passion with which Peterson, or the rest of the Messenger alumni, approach the music made under Blakey's encouraging downbeat." Read the four star review here

GIOVANNI RUSSONELLO
THE NEW YORK TIMES
"Blues March" included in The Playlist. Read full feature and listen to the track here.

D. OSCAR GROOMES
O'S PLACE
"It’s a no holds barred session with Lynch bringing it on “In Case You Missed It” and excellent work by Pierce on “My One and Only Love”. We would have loved to catch them that night at The Side Door in Old Lyme, CT but the recording is a close second!"  Read the full review 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.

GEORGE W. HARRIS
JAZZWEEKLY
"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."  Read the full review here.

RAUL DA GAMA
JAZZ DA GAMA
“On song after song with chorus after chorus he makes a primal world come alive as if at the dawn of its birth, thriving in an idiom that is at once also contemporary, bluesy and accessible; a mix of soul, driving beat and fiery virtuosity which, in turn, propels this music – his music – into a dimension where it swings and rocks just as the music of the proverbial Jazz Messengers – that music that inspired Mr Peterson’s own music – did for generations since Mr Blakey first carved it into the edifice of Jazz. Like his sainted ancestor, Mr Peterson also solos with unrelenting fury”. Read the full review here.

LARRY BLUMENFELD
THE WALL STREET JOURNAL
"As with Blakey’s ensembles, this band is built upon authoritative drumming but is not about it. Still, Mr. Peterson commands attention. His extended and thoroughly satisfying drum solo opens Mr. Watson’s “In Case You Missed It.” Full review here.

GIOVANNI RUSSONELLO
THE NEW YORK TIMES
Art Blakey Centennial Celebration - read full show preview here

ANDY HAZELL
UK VIBE
"...it’s swinging hard. It’s not just all breakneck tempo and no craft though, each solo is rich in colour and detail." Read the full 4/5 review here.

STEVE BRYANT
PHILADELPHIA SUNDAY SUN
"Those who make it to this historic performance with be rewarded with an evening of hard-swinging music." Preview here

C. ANDREW HOVAN
ALL ABOUT JAZZ
"The opening "Along Came Betty" was merely the calm before the storm as Wayne Shorter's "Children of the Night" opened the floodgates for an incendiary tribute."  Read the full review here. 

NELSON BRILL
BOSTON CONCERT REVIEWS
"With an opening command to the gathered crowd to “put your tables in their upright position; fasten your seatbelts – we’ll do the smoking!”- Peterson and his crew launched into a rollicking tribute to the musical genius of Art Blakey, (whose centennial is being celebrated this year), and who was an inspiring mentor to Peterson as a drummer in one of Blakey’s stellar bands." Read the full review here.

CHRIS COOKE
KIOS
"This is one of the finest recordings of 2019 and worth adding to your jazz library." Read the full review here.

MICHAEL ULLMAN
THE ARTS FUSE
"Like Blakey himself, this band delivers what Wayne Shorter called “the show-stopping stuff.” Given the directness of its robust musicality and hard-hitting skills, the Messenger Legacy band delivers the kind of  ‘bish-bash’ that exhilarates." Read the full review here.

JIM HYNES
GLIDE MAGAZINE
"Peterson is eminently qualified to honor Blakey, being the last drummer chosen to play by Blakey’s side in the Jazz Messengers Two Drummer Big Band."  Read the full review here.

MIKE JURKOVIC
ALL ABOUT JAZZ
"Ralph Peterson—the last drummer to play side-by-side with the incomparable Art Blakey—delivers an unstoppable two-disc hyperdrive swing-fest celebration of his mentor with Legacy Alive, Volume 6 at the Side Door." Read the full 4-star review here.

NATE CHINEN
WBGO
"All are in spectacular form on a version of “Children of the Night.”  Read the full review here.

DOUG RAMSEY
ARTS JOURNAL
Some [albums] simply cannot be passed over. Here is one of those.  Read the full review here.

RICHARD B. KAMINS
STEP TEMPEST
"Every member of the Messenger Legacy gives his all (just as Art Blakey commanded them to do during their tenure with him) - it's that dedication, that desire to communicate living history, that makes this music so thrilling." 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.

ANDREW GILBERT
MERCURY NEWS
Art Blakey’s legendary sound will thrive in 2 Walnut Creek concerts - Ralph Peterson celebrates friend and bandmate on tour. Feature here

MICHAEL J. WEST
ALCHEMICAL RECORDS
"...together they are fire." Album release show at The Kennedy Center, DC previewed here.

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.

SASCHA FEINSTEIN
JAZZIZ
"He can be torrential as a soloist (as on the Disc 2 closer, “Caravan”) or quietly supportive. He knows when to infuse a passage with lively fillers and when to simply propel the infectious groove." Read the full review here

DAVE ROGERS
WTJU
Interestingly, they didn’t perform any of Blakey’s compositions, but they certainly brought a lot of fire! The performance took place in October, 2018 and it is sensational! Full review here

R.J. DELUKE
ALL ABOUT JAZZ
"Ralph Peterson: True Messenger, True Warrior." Read full feature piece & interview here.

DANIELE CAMERLENGO
SUONO (ITALY)
Read the full Italian review here.

CHRIS COOKE
KIOS
"Fans of Art Blakey will find much to enjoy here, presented in the same hard bop groove that the Jazz Messengers helped define in the 1950s." Review here

MICHAEL JEWETT
WEMU
Listen to full interview here.

JIM HYNES
ELMORE MAGAZINE
"They plunged into an exhilarating set of hard bop that featured the horns of Bill Pierce (tenor), Brian Lynch (trumpet) and Robin Eubanks (trombone) with excellent ensemble work and soaring solos from each..." Read full Day 2 at Newport 2019 piece here

JAZZIZ
Art Appreciation: A 100th-Anniversary Celebration of Art Blakey
"Ralph Peterson - The Keeper of the Flame." Read the full feature here

GREG TURNER
THE ABSOLUTE SOUND
Review here

 
 
 

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

TOM LUCCI
WICN
BEST OF 2019 here.

 

 

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.

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.

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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