NPR logo

Ralph Peterson Proves We're In A Golden Age Of Jazz Piano Trios

  • Download
  • <iframe src="https://www.npr.org/player/embed/478685085/478706522" width="100%" height="290" frameborder="0" scrolling="no" title="NPR embedded audio player">
  • Transcript
Ralph Peterson Proves We're In A Golden Age Of Jazz Piano Trios

Music Reviews

Ralph Peterson Proves We're In A Golden Age Of Jazz Piano Trios

Ralph Peterson Proves We're In A Golden Age Of Jazz Piano Trios

  • Download
  • <iframe src="https://www.npr.org/player/embed/478685085/478706522" width="100%" height="290" frameborder="0" scrolling="no" title="NPR embedded audio player">
  • Transcript

Peterson's partners are two brothers who are a generation younger than him. The album Triangular III catches this working band in action.

DAVE DAVIES, HOST:

This is FRESH AIR. Jazz critic Kevin Whitehead says we're in a golden age of jazz piano trios. Some are influenced by rock or hip-hop, some swing lightly and politely and some swing with a lot more force. Case in point, the trio of powerhouse drummer Ralph Peterson. Here's Kevin's review.

(SOUNDBITE OF RALPH PETERSON AND ZACCAI CURTIS AND LUQUES CURTIS SONG, "BACKGAMMON")

KEVIN WHITEHEAD, BYLINE: Drummer Ralph Peterson's trio swings hard. But they don't just charge straight ahead. They like those sudden stops and starts and changes of inflection. On one level, it's all a game. That tune is called "Backgammon," where the players complicate things for themselves while they push ahead. The drummer's always been an intensely interactive accompanist. Check how he underlines and punctuates Zaccai Curtis' piano and writes in the margins.

(SOUNDBITE OF RALPH PETERSON AND ZACCAI CURTIS AND LUQUES CURTIS SONG, "BACKGAMMON")

WHITEHEAD: Ralph Peterson plays American-style talking drums, keeping up a running commentary and drawing out the other players. His partners are esteemed brothers a generation younger, Zaccai Curtis and bassist Luques Curtis. They came out of the fertile and nurturing Hartford, Conn. scene and are equally at home in jazz and Afro-Caribbean music. All three players will slip into the cracks between the two.

(SOUNDBITE OF RALPH PETERSON AND ZACCAI CURTIS AND LUQUES CURTIS SONG, "400 YEAR AGO TOMORROW")

WHITEHEAD: That's "400 Years Ago Tomorrow," one of three Walter Davis Jr. tunes on the CD "Triangular III." You can hear how all those parts interlock as if this jazz trio were a percussion trio. Luques Curtis played congas when he was young and can use his bass to ground the band like a bass drum. This is Joe Henderson's "Inner Urge."

(SOUNDBITE OF RALPH PETERSON AND ZACCAI CURTIS AND LUQUES CURTIS SONG, "INNER URGE")

WHITEHEAD: The album "Triangular III" catches this working band in action at Connecticut hotspot Firehouse 12 in New Haven. I caught the trio myself recently and can attest to their combustible energy on stage, with Ralph Peterson rollicking the drums like that's what he was born for. So you can catch your breath, there are a couple of ballads, "Skylark" and Sam Rivers' "Beatrice." Ralph Peterson and the Curtis brothers sound no less engaged on those. They cook at all temperatures.

(SOUNDBITE OF RALPH PETERSON AND ZACCAI CURTIS AND LUQUES CURTIS SONG, "BEATRICE")

DAVIES: Kevin Whitehead writes for Point of Departure and TONE Audio and is the author of "Why Jazz?" He reviewed "Triangular III" by the Ralph Peterson trio.

(SOUNDBITE OF RALPH PETERSON AND ZACCAI CURTIS AND LUQUES CURTIS SONG, "BEATRICE")

DAVIES: Coming up, Maureen Corrigan reviews a new tough and emotionally authentic novel about childbirth. This is FRESH AIR.

Copyright © 2016 NPR. All rights reserved. Visit our website terms of use and permissions pages at www.npr.org for further information.

NPR transcripts are created on a rush deadline by Verb8tm, Inc., an NPR contractor, and produced using a proprietary transcription process developed with NPR. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Accuracy and availability may vary. The authoritative record of NPR’s programming is the audio record.