By Danny R. Johnson
NEW YORK, NY – Jazz composer, educator, trumpeter and drummer, Ralph Peterson, kicked off his June 19, 2012 second release on the Onyx Records Music label with a creative masterpiece called The Duality Perspective. The 10 tracks CD features young and versatile lion musicians such as Mack Avenue Records’ Sean Jones (trumpet) and Tia Fuller (alto and soprano saxophone), Truth Revolution Records’ Luques (bass) and Zaccai Curtis (piano), and Concord Records’ Walter Smith III (tenor saxophone); all of these talented musicians are superbly in the groove with Peterson’s masterful and creative arrangements, and pristinely beautiful drumming accompaniment.
Alexander L.J. Toth, bass, Felix Peikli, on clarinet and bass clarinet are on board to expand Peterson’s Fo’tet group featured on The Duality Perspective, which resulted in a huge sound that is powerfully propelled by Peterson’s forceful drumming, joined by Joseph Doubleday on vibes. The deep, soulful and jazzy grooves are supported by complex ensemble arrangements with concise solo spots for the horns and pianist Zaccai Curtis. In all, this CD is a classic ’60s era Jazz Messengers propelled into the 21st Century with refined stunning performances.
The 50 year-old former member of Art Blakey’s Jazz Messengers, Peterson, wanted this project to embody youth and maturity, past and present, present and future; and diverse stylistic approaches based on a common language. Peterson characterizes the young, hungry Fo’tet as “dry ice, so cold it’ll burn you,” and the all-star Sextet as “richly rooted, one foot in the tradition, and the other foot in tomorrow.” However, as Peterson acknowledges, “Each has a distinct sound and approach, yet they have a commonality at the core.”
Although Peterson is the group’s musical director and chief contributor of new material in The Duality Perspective, Jones, Peikli and Fuller each offer excellent compositions on several selections. The Curtis brothers on bass and piano, and Jones’ boisterous Impervious Gems track has the group heading into new territory with Jones extending his initial phrase into an original melodic arc. Jones’ spiraling phrases, representing a zenith of the arpeggio style, advance with assurance and deliberation from Zaccai and Luques’ building tension. The hypnotic percussion work by Reinaldo Dejesus and Edwin Bayard’s wide-ranging tenor sax style of playing is illuminating and consequential.
Peterson’s trademark shuffle groove highlights the horns section smooth flavored Duality Perspective track – where we find Tia Fuller delivering some funky and melodic sax vibes. Fuller uses improvised line usage sequences with short melodic patterns repeated on different pitches. During the last two bars of the chorus, Peterson allows Fuller, Jones and the rhythm section to dissipate, with Fuller’s line dropping in register and volume to a beautiful conclusion.
The 4 in 1 track is one of Peterson’s most dynamic compositions that get a spirited reading here. Peikli’s clarinet work and Doubleday’s vibes results in a hard swinging track that captures intricate salsa and meringue beats from Dejesus’ masterful percussions and Bryan Carrot’s melodious work on those marimbas! 4 in 1 is a stunning arrangement that offers alternating passages of reflective clarinet harmonies and banging accents for a hard bopping grand finale.
The 4 in 1 track, and the entire Duality Perspective CD for that matter, reminded me of the wise words of one of 20th Century’s most gifted composer, Charles Mingus, who wrote: “As I say, let my children have music, Jazz – the way it has been handed in the past – stifles them so that they believe only in the trumpet, trombone, saxophone, maybe a flute now and then or a clarinet.”
Ralph Peterson must have been listening to the spirit of Mingus when he composed The Duality Perspective, because all the elements Mingus listed in his liner notes on his 1971 Columbia Records album, Let My Children Hear Music, is admirably displayed in this body of work. Moreover, for this effort and significant achievement – The Duality Perspective is a worthwhile investment.
Danny R. Johnson is San Diego County News’ Jazz and Pop Music Critic.