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Not for nothing does Criss Cross have a reputation for being the present day equivalent of Blue Note Records during its heyday in the '50s and '60s. A blindfolded listener could easily be forgiven for mistaking a 2003 Criss Cross album for the work of Hank Mobley, Jimmy Smith, or Grant Green. That may sound worse than it is. Despite its fairly predictable style (late '50s hard bop and soul jazz), the fact is that the label is home to a number of truly talented musicians. Almost to a man, its stable of artists is made up of talented pros, most of whom simply haven’t been signed to a major label as of yet.
Such is not the case of drummer Ralph Peterson, who signed to Blue Note in the late '80s. Peterson is certainly not a has-been; rather, it is a sign of the times when a musician of Peterson’s caliber finds himself “at liberty.” Still, the major’s loss is certainly the minor's gain. The collection of high quality post-bop Tests of Time is high above Criss Cross’s usual fare. A great deal of this has to do with Peterson himself, still one of the most exciting drummers and leaders on the scene. A lot has to do with the personnel, which includes such notables as Tom Harrell standard-bearer Jimmy Greene on saxophone and flute, pianist Orrin Evans (yes, another exceptional pianist named Evans), and trumpet firebrand Jeremy Pelt. Together, with bassist Eric Revis, this group generates sparks. If too many Criss Cross albums are merely “good,” Tests of Time is the exception that proves the rule. A thought provoking mix of up-tempo numbers and ballads (including the lovely “Telepathy,”) this album is one of the year’s best.
Track Listing: Respect for Truth; Tests of Time; I Love You; Telepathy; Neo Terra; Ballad for Queen Tiya; Prayer for
Columbine; When I Fall In Love; Question; Cheyrl; Dark Prince.
Personnel: Ralph Peterson, drums; Orrin Evans, piano; Jimmy Greene, saxophone, flute; Jeremy Pelt, trumpet,
flugelhorn; Eric Revis, bass.
As a kid, my mom told me I'd like jazz. I thought she was nuts. Then I went to hear Cannonball Adderley (with Nat Adderley, George Duke, Walter Booker, Roy McCurdy and Airto) and everything changed. Yeah, mom knows best.