Time to write about music thats been filling our house with good sounds this Spring:
|Photo: Alan Nihigian|
"Raise Up Off Me" (ONYX) is being billed as Ralph Peterson's final album as a leader. Recorded in December 2020 (less than three months before his passing), the program finds him in the company of the Curtis Brothers –– Zaccai (piano, keyboards) and Luques (bass) –– plus guests Eguie Castrillo (conga, timbale, cymbal, and cowbell on one track) and Jazzmeia Horn (vocals on three tracks). The title track opens the album, a group improv featuring the leader on various percussion instruments plus Zaccai on both acoustic and electric pianos. The music is reminiscent of Herbie Hancock's more exploratory of the late 1960s. "Right to Live" (composition by Peterson) features his fiery percussion pushed to the max by the powerful piano and foundational bass work. It's no surprise that the Curtis Brothers became the basis for "Triangular III" and "IV"; you remember the initial "Triangular" with pianist Geri Allen and bassist Essiet Essiet. Both Ms. Allen and Zaccai Curtis knew how to play Peterson's opfetn-complicated music.
|Photo: Emmanuel Afolabi|
If "Raise Up Off Me" is to be Ralph Peterson Jr's final album, he certainly goes out on a high note (a major bunch of them in fact). If you are listening to hear if the drummer is weak or has slowed down, you won't hear anything like that. Neither does one hear sadness, pity, or anger. Joy is the sound emanating from the speakers. Ralph Peterson Jr dealt with numerous issues during too-short lifetime but his music was his strength, his refuge, his contribution to making the world a better place! What a man, what a man!
To learn more about the artist, go to www.ralphpetersonmusic.net/. To buy the album, go to https://ralphpetersononyxmusiclabel.bandcamp.com/album/raise-up-off-me.
Hear "The Right to Live":
|Photo: John Abbott|
While the debut is good fun, album # 2 "Not a Novelty" (Sunnyside) is, in many ways, even stronger. That could be because by the time the septet entered the studios, it was September 2020, right in the midst of the pandemic. No one in the band was working regularly, venues had closed down, the theaters on Broadway and beyond silenced; save for teaching students on ZOOM, there were no gigs. Opening with Eckroth's "BonGasmo", the band (with Samuel Torres irrepressible percussion joining) plays with abandon including soloist Mayland. There are only two other originals by band members in the program. Instead there is an eclectic collection of pieces from composers such as Remy LaBouef, Tori Amos, Chris Cheek, Ayn Inserto, Carmen Staaf, Manuel Valera, and Chris Cornell (the former leader of Soundgarden now deceased).
|Photo: John Abbott|
Kurt Elling. He and Ms. Wharton solo together with the vocalist imitating a 'bone player with a cup mute. Ms. Amos's "Twinkle", arranged by Fedchock, is a lovely ballad; spreading the brass around the sound spectrum and giving them sweet harmonies to play while he solos, the music moves forward gently gaining in intensity. Torres shows up once more for the rollicking take of Valera's "La Otra Mano" even getting a solo after both Ferber and Eckroth shake the rafters. "Blue Salt", by Ayn Inserto, features a rocking bass line (doubled on piano) plus a splendid solo from Ms. Wharton and her husband over several different rhythms.
Mark Ferber's "Blue Salts" is definitely a blues, down and somewhat dirty (especially the swagger from the 'bones). Ms. Wharton takes her solo low down while bassist Gregor solos with the band responding in kind. There's even a Frank Zappa feel to the "march" that closes the piece.
No truer words than "Not a Novelty" as the trombonists take center stage and acquit themselves magnificently. The basic difference between the first and second Bonegasm album is that while the material is just as good it's the arrangements that feel stronger. Jennifer Wharton should be proud of this album and this group –– she gets to work and play with her husband and with her friends. Hopefully, the band will get to play in front of live audiences.
For more information, go to https://jenniferwharton.com/. To purchase the album, go to https://jenniferwharton.bandcamp.com/album/not-a-novelty.
Hear the opening track: