Sunday, May 1, 2016


Guitarist Randy Napoleon graduated from the University of Michigan, served a dream apprenticeship in the Clayton-Hamilton Orchestra, and achieved a bunch of street cred working with famed jazz vocalist and pianist Freddy Cole. As a session leader, Napoleon has four outstanding albums available, the most recent being “Soon” on the Detroit Music Factory. Napoleon is a dynamic guitarist who appears to have a personal relationship with the ghost of the great Wes Montgomery. Several times on this album Napoleon channeled that spirit. “Soon” is a balanced album that shows Napoleon can play tenderly, and raise sand with equal aplomb. It sounds as if his fingers are making love to the guitar strings on the slow jams “Be My Love,” and “More Than You Know”. The cuts likely to stay with you weeks after listening to them are “CC Rider,” “Grew’s Tune,” and “Isfahan”. You can’t go wrong with this album because there isn’t a disappointing cut on it. Napoleon didn’t pull off this terrific recording by his lonesome. His supporting cast is world-class. Rodney Whitaker is on bass, Gregory Hutchinson is on drums, and Etienne Charles plays the trumpet. The heart stopper on “Soon” is Napoleon’s duet with Charles on the classic “Body and Soul”.

Jazz drummer Ralph Peterson rarely plays with a trio. It’s coming up on thirty years since he’s recorded with a trio. His new album is titled “Triangular III,” recorded live at Firehouse 12 in New Haven, Ct. with bassist Luques Curtis and pianist Zaccai Curtis. “Triangular III” is a stellar outing for Peterson, who bears a resemblance to Art Blakey in terms of his God-given gift for building young jazz musicians from the ground up. Peterson’s various groups have been like a finishing school for talented and hungry musicians ready for their place in the real world. This trio is as formidable as Peterson's Fo'tet, sextet, and Messenger Legacy groups,  From the first cut on "Triangular III" to the last one, it's apparent Peterson designed this trio to be a platform for the Curtis brother’s considerable chops, particularly Zacccai who stole the show on damn near every selection. Peterson is an acrobatic drummer. All the outrageous feats he pulled off on drums Zaccai mirrored on the piano. If you desire proof study the album’s best moments “Inner Urge, “Backgammon,” and “The Art of War”. Peterson puts the zoom lens on Luques and Zaccai, but Peterson had some primo solos. On “Manifest Destiny,” Peterson had the drum kit yelling. The trio raised holy hell most of the recording, but showed its tender side on the ballad “Skylar”.
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