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Ralph Peterson: Tests of Time

Russ Musto By

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Ralph Peterson’s newest effort once again casts the drummer in the role of the leader of a contemporary jazz quintet in the tradition of Art Blakey and the Jazz Messengers. Blakey himself recognized Peterson’s potential early in the young drummer’s career, back when he was a sideman with the Terence Blanchard-Donald Harrison Quintet, and encouraged him to become a bandleader. Peterson has settled into the position nicely, confirming Blakey’s famous faculty for finding future leaders, and on the third disc with this latest edition of his group, featuring trumpeter Jeremy Pelt, saxophonist Jimmy Greene, pianist Orrin Evans and bassist Eric Revis, the young veteran follows in his mentor’s footsteps, demonstrating a similar penchant for featuring the “new stars on the jazz horizon.”

Like Blakey, Peterson always gives his sidemen a push to step out front and display their improvisational skills and on this date he also showcases the compositional contributions of his colleagues in conjunction with his well-documented ability in that department. The drummer offers four of his own originals—“Respect For Truth,” a hard bopping homage to Blakey; “Tests of Time,” a pensive piece reminiscent of the post-Messengers penmanship of Bobby Watson and Wayne Shorter; the beautiful “Ballad For Queen Tiye,” a feature for Greene’s rarely heard, impressively full bodied flute; and “Dark Prince,” a dedication to Miles Davis, whose ‘60s quintet is one of the leader’s other major inspirations (as can be heard in his Herbie Hancock-inspired reharmonization of the standard “When I Fall In Love”), along with Freddie Hubbard, whose “Neo Terra” is also treated to an inspired new arrangement.

Pelt, who is strongly influenced by Hubbard himself, contributes two compositions, “Telepathy," a thoughtful, harmonically intricate piece and “Cheryl,” a cheerfully melodic waltz. Evans’ “Prayer For Columbine” is a powerfully mournful remembrance of the Colorado high school tragedy, further documenting the pianist’s increasingly recognizable style as a composer. Eric Revis’ labyrinthic “Questions” is an extraordinary exposition of the bassist’s impressive nascent writing skill. Greene, whose performances on tenor and soprano saxophones as well as flute are consistently inspired, demonstrates his skill with the pen on a particularly likable arrangement of Cole Porter’s “I Love You.” Peterson himself deserves a lion’s share of credit for his ability to put his stamp on all of the selections with his always interesting, and often surprising, drumming, whether it’s right up front, prodding in the background or, as is most often the case, moving in, out and around the melodic lines of the other players in the cohesive group he has assembled.


Track Listing: Respect For Truth (Ralph Peterson) Tests Of Time (Ralph Peterson) I Love You (Cole Porter) Telepathy (Jeremy Pelt) Neo Terra (Freddie Hubbard) Ballad For Queen Tiye (Ralph Peterson) Prayer For Columbine (Orrin Evans); When I Fall In Love (Young / Heymann); Question (Eric Revis); Cheryl (Jeremy Pelt); Dark Prince (Ralph Peterson).

Personnel: Ralph Peterson (dr), Jeremy Pelt (tr/flg), Jimmy Greene (ts/ss), Orrin Evans (ap), Eric Revis (ab)

Title: Tests of Time | Year Released: 2004 | Record Label: Criss Cross

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