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.”
|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
“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.
"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.
THE NEW YORK TIMES
"Blues March" included in The Playlist. Read full feature and listen to the track here.
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.
"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
"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.
"...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.
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.
"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.
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.
"All are in spectacular form on a version of “Children of the Night.” Read the full review here.
Some [albums] simply cannot be passed over. Here is one of those. Read the full review here.
RICHARD B. KAMINS
"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.
"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.
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
"...together they are fire." Album release show at The Kennedy Center, DC previewed here.
"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.
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.
ALL ABOUT JAZZ
"Ralph Peterson: True Messenger, True Warrior." Read full feature piece & interview here.
"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.
For The Gen-Next Big Band: I Remember Bu: Alive Vol. 4 at Scullers
"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
"...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.
"...this blazing set just plain smokes throughout."
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.
"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.
"Blakey would have liked this album, as he loved having younger players surrounding him." Read the full review here.
" [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
"Both big band and quintet recordings represent different aspects of Peterson's voracious musical appetite." Read the full Downbeat feature here.
"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.
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.
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.
"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.