Thursday, April 7, 2011


Drummer Ralph Peterson has something in common with his idol Art Blakey. Their bands were schools, and they groomed their pupils to be jazz stars. Many accomplished players served under Blakey. Peterson groomed his fair share of current stars. Trumpeter Sean Jones, saxophonist Tia Fuller, and pianist Orrin Evans did their apprenticeship in Peterson's band. Each musician grew into top-notch bandleaders, and they have excellent discographies to prove it.

On Peterson's new album “Outer Reaches,” the drummer salutes the late jazz organist Larry Young’s 1965 Blue Note album “Unity”. Before Young hooked up with Blue Note, he made several soul-jazz albums for Prestige Records. A jazz critic once dubbed Young the John Coltrane of the organ. The organist was a deep thinker and an intense improviser. "Unity" was one of Peterson's all-time favorite jazz albums. Peterson plays four tunes from “Unity” “The Moontrane,” “Monk’s Dream,” “Beyond the Limits,” and “Zoltan”.

"Outer Reaches" is also a nob to the influence Blakey had on Peterson. He bonded with Blakey while a member of Blakey's two drum big band. Peterson's band has the same intensity and team spirits as Blakey’s various groups had. On “Outer Reaches,” Peterson lays in the cut, and rations out the spotlight to trumpeter Josh Evans, saxophonist Jovan Alexandre and organist Pat Bianchi.

Of the bunch, Bianchi has the strongest presence. He runs through “Inside Job” as if his feet are on fire. Evans and Alexandre are greedy improvisers. They gobble the notes on “Wee Three Kings,” and “Monk’s Dream” like appetizers. “Spectrum,” is the album's only eyesore. The tune is too way out, and it should've failed inspection. Other than that, "Outer Reaches" is a primo tribute album, and a platform for his current band of star pupils Evans, Alexandre, and Bianchi. 
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