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Jazz in the Afternoon Review: Ralph Peterson & The Messenger Legacy/Legacy Alive/ONYX Records

Aug 6, 2019

One hundred years since his birth, the legacy of Jazz drummer Art Blakey looms large over the jazz world. His legendary band, Art Blakey and the Jazz Messengers, was a jazz university for musicians who were on the way to becoming superstars in their own right. Those artists include Wayne Shorter, Freddie Hubbard, Lee Morgan, Bobby Timmons, Benny Golson and Wynton Marsalis, and the members of Ralph Peterson's band that pays tribute to Art Blakey.

Art Blakey's legacy is celebrated by drummer Ralph Peterson, one of the few drummers selected by Blakey to enter the ranks of the Jazz Messengers. Peterson served as an alternate drummer in the Jazz Messengers, in part due to Blakey's failing health in the mid to late 1980s.

Ralph Peterson leads The Messenger Legacy band, comprised of jazz artists who worked with Art Blakey's Jazz Messengers before going on to their own careers in music. These are: Bill Pierce on the tenor saxophone; Bobby Watson, (who is known to many jazz fans in the Midwest)on the alto saxophone; Brian Lynch on trumpet, Essiet Essiet on bass and Geoffrey Keezer at the piano. 

"Legacy Alive" presents selected music from the Jazz Messengers discography of over one hundred albums. Fans of Art Blakey will find much to enjoy here, presented in the same hard bop groove that the Jazz Messengers helped define in the 1950s. Highlights of this thoroughly satisfying session include Curtis Fuller's "Ala Mode", Freddie Hubbard's "The Core", two Benny Golson numbers :"Blues March" and "Along Came Betty", in additon to Bobby Watson's  "In Case You Missed It". The band also covers Wayne Shorter's remarkable "Children Of The Night" and closes out the recording with the acclaimed Messenger arrangement of "Caravan", delivered with a searing intensity that recalls the volcanic treatment given by Art Blakey on his many performances of the song.

Drummer and bandleader Ralph Peterson has decades of experience in the jazz world, as a sideman with Charles Lloyd, Steve Coleman, George Colligan, Stanley Cowell, Betty Carter and many others. He is also known for leading the groups The Fo'Tet, Hip Pocket, and Triangular. Peterson has taught as a jazz educator  at Berklee College of Music in Boston and University of the Arts in Philadelphia.

"Legacy Alive" was recorded live at The Side Door in Old Lyme, Connecticut on October 12th and 13th in 2018 and is available on Ralph Peterson's own label, Onyx Records. This is one of the finest recordings of 2019 and worth adding to your jazz library. For more information you may visit ralphpetersononyxmusiclabel.bandcamp.com