by Dee Dee McNeil
Orrin Evans wrote in the Peterson liner notes about this recent recording:
“If you know Ralph, you knew whenever he titled a song or album, it directly correlated to something going on in his life. “Reclamation Project” was Ralph’s way of telling us he was reclaiming his life and career. “Art” was his tribute to his mentor, Art Blakey, who had just passed. “The Trials of Trust and Treachery” was his homage to the difficulty, but importance of long-term relationships. “Raise Up Off Me” can easily be associated with 2020, the Black Lives Matter Movement and the pandemic; the message I hear is Ralph’s fight to LIVE!”
Ralph Peterson was born May 20, 1962. His father played drums and was also the first black police chief of their hometown; Pleasantville, New Jersey. His father later became the town’s first black mayor, while his mother worked as the manager of an aviation research company. Within the family lineage, there were a slew of drummers. Ralph’s grandfather played cymbals in the church. Peterson also had four uncles who were drummers. It wasn’t surprising that young Ralph took to the drums at age three and never looked back.
“Later, I wanted to learn how to read music,” Ralph recalled his early musical journey.
“Because I was playing drums in funk bands and R&B bands of the late 60s and 70s, but I had no discipline to learn how to read music on drums. If I couldn’t get it right away, it didn’t hold my interest. Cyrille grew up in Brooklyn, a cousin of mine, and at the wake for my Uncle Bud, Cyrille sat on the steps of the back porch playing trumpet,” Ralph Peterson explained how he became infatuated with the trumpet and eventually learned to read music.
“In Brooklyn, Cyrille was known as the General of Jazz. Funny, because I call my student soldiers. My cousin was also a Black Belt in Taekwondo and I just earned my fifth degree,” Ralph Peterson recalled the impact his cousin Cyrille had on him.
“I started playing the horn in the fourth grade. By the 7th grade, I was playing trumpet in the high school band. I played trumpet in the marching band for six years, but in the jazz band I played drums.
“1982 I played my first gig in New York with Walter Davis, a great piano player and Jazz Messenger, at the Barry Harris’ Jazz Showcase. So, Wynton & Branford Marsalis were on horns; Phil Bowler on bass from Bridgeport, Connecticut. On Walter Davis’s last trio record, a record called Scorpio Rising, me, Walter and Santi Debriano; all three of us have Scorpio as an ascendant in astrological charts. So, our linkage was cosmic for us. No rehearsal. We went into the studio and Walter would just start playing. That’s the way they used to do it. They take you to the deep end of the pool and drop you in,” Peterson relived his precious formative years in jazz.
Ralph Peterson began recording as a leader in 1988, with an all-star quintet consisting of Terence Blanchard on trumpet, Steve Wilson on saxophone, Geri Allen at the eighty-eight keys and Phil Bowler on bass. They released two albums called V and Volition on the Blue Note Label. Ralph also worked with Allen and Bowler as a trio, but on the recording “Triangular” Essiet Essiet replaced Bowler.
In 1989, Ralph Peterson recorded in the quartet format as “The Fo’tet” with Don Byron, Steve Wilson (later Bobby Franchesini), Melissa Slocum, who later was replaced by Belden Bullock and percussionist and vibraphonist, Bryan Carrott.
FRIDAY, JULY 16th 2021
Zaccai Curtis Afro-Cuban Jazz Quartet featuring Brian Lynch – 7:00 pm
Dennis Edwards’ Temptations Revue – 9:00 pm
SATURDAY, JULY 17th 2021
Almandla Band (Reggae) – 2:30 pm
Kevin Powell and Company – 4:30 pm
Adam Hawley – 6:30 pm
Eric Roberson/Eric Darius – 8:30 pm
Art From Da Hart (Ginette Christie) – 10:30 pm
Mike Childs (McKeyz) & Friends – 10:50 pm
SUNDAY, JULY 18th 2021
Liviu Pop & Friends (Jazz/Blues) – 2:30 pm
Grace Kelly – 4:30 pm
Brubeck Brothers Quartet (BBQ) – 6:30 pm
Hiroshima – 8:30 pm
The Curtis Brothers Invite Cherished Jazz Mentors to Fuse Mathematical Ideas with the Soul,
Due out August 23, 2019
Featuring Zaccai & Luques Curtis
with Brian Lynch, Donald Harrison & Ralph Peterson
Truth Revolution Records is proud to announce the release of Algorithm, the new album from brothers – and unmistakable piano/bass duo – Zaccai and Luques Curtis. Algorithm is a nine-track collection of originals, best described in chapters – each titled after a mathematical concept or term, with the exception of the chapters that serve to honor The Curtis Brothers’ mentors. Narrated by Jazz Messenger alums, trumpeter Brian Lynch, saxophonist Donald Harrison and drummer Ralph Peterson, Algorithm conveys the great contribution that each of these three jazz titans have had on the artistic development of The Curtis Brothers. While some may regard Algorithm as the sequel to 2012’s Completion of Proof – the debut release from The Curtis Brothers Band – one can be certain that this recording undoubtedly emanates the spirit of the great Art Blakey. With these compositions, Zaccai and Luques aim to fuse mathematical ideas with the soul – by enlisting this all-star band, the brothers have succeeded in bringing their vision, and its full potential to fruition.
Commissioned by New Jazz Works – Chamber Music America, Algorithm can be simply seen as a book of music that, through its deftly constructed movements, displays the sound of this vigorously talented band in its truest and purest form. It’s worth noting the heightened sense of improvisation on tracks/chapters 3, 6 and 9. Discussed in further detail below, these tracks feature the brothers’ three mentors and offers each – Harrison, Lynch and Peterson – the opportunity to direct the narrative of their own respective tune. Donald Harrison offered this dynamic duo their first opportunity to be a part of a touring band which, since 2001, has seen them perform extensively across Europe. As Zaccai exudes, “Harrison has really nurtured our musical development in all styles of music.” Upon their move to New York City, Zaccai and Luques began working with Brian Lynch – Luques regularly collaborated with Lynch as part of the Eddie Palmieri band. The trumpeter has dedicated himself on numerous occasions to the support of the pair’s label, Truth Revolution Records. Drummer Ralph Peterson began mentoring the brothers in 2005 and has regularly joined forces since. As a trio, Peterson and the brothers most recently released TriAngular III – a duel record label release from Truth Revolution Records and Peterson’s Onyx Production Music Label.
“Three Points and a Sphere” kicks off proceedings – the tune serves to reminisce upon The Curtis Brothers’ beginnings in Hartford, Connecticut. Knowing this compositional context, the track’s placement in the album’s setlist is truly apropos. The composition pays homage to Jackie and Dollie McLean, with a nod to the logo of The Artists Collective, Inc. The Artists Collective, Inc. is one of several schools that The Curtis Brothers attended in their youth, as part of their early musical development. “Phi” brings light to the golden ratio – a special number that many living things abide by, in order to grow and develop. Many artists use this concept in their work, in order to bring beauty into their creation. Rhythmically, “Phi” incorporates a New Orleans-based rhythm, made famous in the “jazz” world by pianist Ahmad Jamal, through his interpretation of the composition “Poinciana”. “Parametric” emphasizes a strong focus on syncopation with bebop influences, while “Torus” was written in a ¾ time signature, and takes its title from an object that conceptually offers interesting ideas, when its mathematics are addressed by the arts. Many artists, like M.C. Escher, have played with mathematical ideas that bend the governing parameters of our physical reality – specifically, his work influenced by the “mobius strip” comes to mind.
The album continues with Chapter Seven – a musical sequel to “Manifest Destiny”, from the aforementioned first Curtis Brothers recording, Completion of Proof. The composition, entitled “Undefined” exhibits an Art Blakey concept – one in which Reggie Workman’s non-walking bass line would combine with Blakey’s swing, in order to create a counterbalance. Here, and throughout other chapters on Algorithm, the brothers have honed this sound with the help of Ralph Peterson. The track takes its title from the surprising result displayed on a calculator when dividing any number by zero. While “Staircase of Mount Meru” pays tribute to Indian mathematician Pingala – the earliest source of reference for what is commonly known as “Pascal’s Triangle” – chapters three, six and nine cast the spotlight on Harrison, Lynch and Peterson, respectively. “Chief” features The Curtis Brothers’ earliest mentor and touring band leader in the professional world, “Big Chief” Donald Harrison, Jr., while “The Professor”illuminates the talents of Brian Lynch, who crafts an incredible tale throughout the entire composition. Chapter Nine, entitled “Sensei” serves as a showcase for Ralph Peterson, who chronicles his fascinating journey within life and music on this album closer.
MORE ABOUT ZACCAI CURTIS
After graduating from New England Conservatory in 2005, Zaccai Curtis moved to New York City where he performs regularly with artists such as: Donald Harrison, Cindy Blackman Santana, Eddie Palmieri, Christian Scott, Ralph Peterson, T.K. Blue, Brian Lynch, Ray Vega, and Eric Person amongst others. Curtis composes and arranges for his own quartet, trio, Big-Band and more. In 2003 he was chosen as a winner of the ASCAP Young Jazz Composer’s competition and each year consecutively through 2006. Zaccai and his quartet were selected by the U.S. State Department to be in the American Music Abroad (Jazz Ambassadors) program twice in 2006. They performed in Bangladesh, Calcutta, Bangalore, Mumbai, Sri Lanka and the Maldives. In 2007 Zaccai Curtis was awarded the ‘Connecticut Commission on Culture and Tourism’s Artist Fellowship’ for ‘original composition.’ In 2017 Curtis became a Chamber Music America: “New Jazz Works” grant recipient. Zaccai currently performs his own music with his group ‘Curtis Brothers Quartet’ and recently released his new album, Syzygy(2017) after three successful releases; ‘A Genesis,’ ‘Blood Spirit Land Water Freedom’ and ‘Completion of Proof.’ Zaccai, along with his brother Luques, has developed a recording collective (TRRcollective) of musicians that produce music on their own terms. He is proud to have been a producer for the GRAMMY nominated album (Entre Colegas 2016) released on the label (Truth Revolution Records/TRRcollective). Zaccai created the first ever music news app developed primarily for record labels: ‘The Riff: Music News’ available on iTunes and android.
MORE ABOUT LUQUES CURTIS
Luques Curtis studied at the Greater Hartford Academy of Performing Arts, Artist Collective, and Guakia with Dave Santoro, Volcan Orham, Nat Reeves, Paul Brown, and others. While attending high school, he was also very fortunate to study the Afro-Caribbean genre with bass greats Andy Gonzalez and Joe Santiago. Curtis earned a full scholarship to Berklee College Of Music in Boston. There he studied with John Lockwood and Ron Mahdi. While in Boston, he also worked with great musicians such as Gary Burton, Ralph Peterson, Donald Harrison, Christian Scott, and Francisco Mela. Luques was also a recipient of the prestigious Bunche Fellowship to attend the Mason Gross School of the Arts at Rutgers University. Now living in the New York area, Curtis has been performing worldwide with Eddie Palmieri, Brian Lynch, Ralph Peterson, Christian Scott, Sean Jones, Orrin Evans, Stefon Harris, and others. He is the recent recipient of the 2016 DownBeat Rising Star Bassist on the Critics Poll. Co-owner of Truth Revolution Records, Luques contributed his talents to Brian Lynch’s Grammy winning album “Simpatico” and his Grammy nominated “Madera Latino” as well as Christian Scott’s Grammy nominated “Rewind That”. He also produced Grammy nominated “Entre Colegas” by Andy Gonzalez. Luques can be heard on Eddie Palmieri’s “Sabiduria”; Gary Burton “Next Generations”; Dave Valentin “Come Fly With Me”; Sean Jones “Roots”, “Kaleidoscope”, “Improvise”, and “The Search Within”; Albert Rivera’s “Re-Introduction”; Etienne Charles’ “Folklore”; Orrin Evans’ “Faith In Action”.
To reinterpret Latin jazz is to risk alienating two camps with strong opinions: jazz listeners and much of Central and South America. Yet Zaccai Curtis was not cowed by the ambitiousness of his project, bringing his Orkesta into Dizzy’s Club (Sep. 10th) to present the “Evolution in Latin-Jazz Big Band” and certainly the pianist and his bassist brother Luques had good instruction on the history and potential of Latin jazz at the hands of mentor Eddie Palmieri. The band was 11 strong—Jonathan Powell and JS Williams (trumpet), Peter McEachern and Joe Beaty (trombone), Albert Rivera (alto), Don Braden (tenor), Mitch Frohman (baritone), Camilo Molina (drums) and Reinaldo de Jesus (percussion), plus vocalist Shenel Johns for a couple of numbers—and some of the tunes, mostly originals, were less evolutionary than tributary, Curtis modernizing the forms with a delicate touch. Yet he accomplished his mission with the longest piece of the set, “Robot’s Ballet”. If there isn’t a subgenre already called Latin Industrial, Curtis may have inadvertently invented it. Percussion which elsewhere felt fit for dancing here recalled the churning of a factory and the counterpoint among the horns highlighted the song’s dark foundation and pliable tempo; at times piano soloed over a band that was hurtling towards oblivion. A techno-tribal drum and bass segment was a perfect introduction back to the melody reading by the full band, which now was definitely speeding up like a runaway train.
Photo by Kasia Idzkowska
Starting This Fall I will be joining the faculty at Hartt under the direction of Javon Jackson. I’m very excited to work on music with this amazing institution that had a big role in my life as a young musician and student. Even though I didn’t attend Hartt as a student, I frequently visited while my older brother Damian Curtis attended 97-01. I met so many great musicians that I play with to this day including Ray McMorrin, Haneef Nelson, Dezron Douglas, Lummie Spann and so many more. I know I will feel like I’m back home and happy dedicate my time in the city where I was born! One of my classes is an Afro-Cuban Jazz ensemble that will focus on all aspects of music from Dizzy Gillespie to Eddie Palmieri so be on the look out for a new emergence of Latin Jazz in Hartford! I’ll keep you posted here on many of the things to come as I look forward to this new opportunity! Shout out to the current faculty there and I’m honored to be working with you all!
This grant is funding not only the performances of my new composition, “Algorithm,” but a portion of the Curtis Brothers recording of the project featuring the great Ralph Peterson, Brian Lynch and Donald Harrison. – to be released (2018)
Here is something I wrote about the composition I was able to put together. Thanks to Chamber Music America and it’s supporters!
The name of my composition is “Algorithm.”
I feel it’s best described with chapters.
While attempting to fuse mathematical ideas with the soul, “Algorithm” was written with the sound of the Curtis Brothers band and individual musicians in mind. “Algorithm”could be viewed as the sequel to “Completion of Proof.” Built in the spirit of the great Art Blakey and the Jazz Messengers, I continue to try and mold my music in the image of that greatness.
Each chapter is titled after a mathematical concept or term with exception to the chapters presented by the mentors of the Curtis Brothers. Those chapters are “narrated” by the great Donald Harrison, Brian Lynch and Ralph Peterson. Three musicians that helped make the Curtis Brothers who they are today.
“Three Points and a Sphere” the first chapter address the start of the Curtis Brothers in Hartford, paying homage to Jackie and Dollie McLean’s important contribution with a nod to the logo of the Artists Collective. The Artists Collective is one of the schools that the Curtis Brothers attended in their youth for their early musical development.
Chapter two, “Phi,” is a nod to the golden ratio, the program that many living things abide by in order to grow and develop. Many artists use this concept and math in their work to bring beauty into their composition. Rhythmically I use the New Orleanian rhythm that was made famous by Ahmad Jamal with the composition ‘Poinciana.’
Chapter three is titled “Chief” features the Curtis Brothers earliest mentor and touring band leader, the Big Chief Donald Harrison Jr., who tells a story throughout the entire composition.
Chapter four is our ‘Latin Jazz’ composition which emphasizes a strong focus on rhythm with heavy bebop influences. It was titled “Parametrics” to address the parameters that confine us during our time in the physical world.
Chapter five, was written in 3/4 and is titled “Torus” which is an object that conceptually offers interesting ideas when its mathematics are addressed by the arts. Many artists like, M.C. Escher, have worked with mathematical concepts that bend the governing rules of our physical reality. His works influenced by the ‘mobius strip’ come to mind. Research on the Torus has always been fascinating to me.
Chapter six is titled “The Professor” and features our mentor Brian Lynch, who tells a story throughout the entire composition.
Chapter seven is the musical sequel to Manifest Destiny (a composition from our first Curtis Brothers recording, ‘Completion of Proof’). We use a musical concept we learned from the concept of the Art Blakey band where Reggie Workmans, non-walking bass line is combined with Blakey’s swing. Ralph Peterson has shaped this sound with us and we use it many times throughout the chapters in Algorithm. We named this “Undefined” because of the result you get in a calculator after dividing by zero.
Chapter eight is titled “Staircase of Mount Meru,” paying tribute to Indian mathematician Pingala for being the earliest source of reference for what is commonly known as ‘Pascal’s Triangle.’ Also the title of the Composition “Algorithm” is a nod to Algoritmi, the Persian(modern day Iran) mathematician, Muḥammad ibn Mūsā al’Khwārizmī. This up-tempo composition addresses the many elements of jazz communication between the rhythm section and the horn section.
Finally, chapter nine, is titled “Sensei” and features our mentor Ralph Peterson who tells a story throughout the entire composition.
Chamber Music America Announces Grants
Arts organization provides nearly $1 million in funding to artists and organizations
Chamber Music America (CMA) announced its annual grant recipients in four programs: New Jazz Works and Presenter Consortium for Jazz, supported by the Doris Duke Charitable Foundation; Classical Commissioning, supported by The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation; and the Residency Partnership Program, funded by Chamber Music America’s Residency Endowment Fund. The total amount of the grants is $951,545, with much of the funding going to support jazz artists and organizations.
A total of $447,000 was awarded to fifteen jazz ensembles through the New Jazz Works program, which “supports the creation of new works by professional U.S.-based jazz artists and helps assure that these compositions will be heard through live performances and recordings,” according to a press release from CMA. Here are the ensembles which received those grants:
- Alchemy Sound Project (Rosendale, NY) Composer: Erica Lindsay
- Andrea Brachfeld Quartet (Jersey City, NJ) Composer: Andrea Brachfeld
- Ben Wendel Group (Brooklyn, NY) Composer: Ben Wendel
- Craig Handy and 2nd Line Smith (Weehawken, NJ) Composer: Craig Handy
- The Curtis Brothers (Weehawken, NJ) Composer: Zaccai Curtis
- Ian Carey Quintet + 1 (Richmond, CA) Composer: Ian Carey
- Joshua Lawrence and Color Theory (New York, NY) Composer: Joshua Lawrence
- Kendrick Scott Oracle (New York, NY) Composer: Kendrick Scott
- Manuel Valera Trio (New York, NY) Composer: Manuel Valera
- Martin Bejerano Trio (Miami, FL) Composer: Martin Bejerano
- Mickey Bass and the New York Powerhouse Ensemble (New York, NY) Composer: Mickey Bass
- Mike Holober and Balancing Act (Mount Kisco, NY) Composer: Mike Holober
- Piano Iberico (Brooklyn, NY) Composer: Chano Dominguez
- Samuel Torres Group (Long Island City, NY) Composer: Samuel Torres
- Vardan Ovsepian Chamber Project (Glendale, CA) Composer: Vardan Ovsepian
The Curtis Brothers performance was a display of the mentoring system at its best.
Mentoring is one of the foundational elements of jazz culture; the elders teaching the young ones until they are ready to establish their own identities and careers. This mentoring happens in a lot of ways. It happens by observing how an experienced jazz person dresses, carries him or herself, walks through a room, talks to an audience or handles him or herself on the bandstand. Of course, it happens by listening to the playing. In fact, when jazz people describe what it was like hearing someone play, they might say “they sounded great,” but they will almost certainly say: “I learned a lot.”
A more direct communication is established if the veteran thinks the young musician has potential and the pair are personally simpatico. The mentor might invite his protégé over to the house to practice or just to hang. The relationship bears full fruit when the elder invites the mentee to sit in at a gig, or even takes him on the road. As Luques Curtis wrote to me in an email: “The lessons I learned on the road were more life lessons. I learned how to behave respectfully and how to adapt to almost every musical situation by paying attention to how my mentors would deal with things.”
Although it was billed as The Curtis Brothers at Scullers Jazz Club on Thursday, Feb 1, the performance would more accurately be called The Curtis Brothers and Mentors. Drummer Ralph Peterson, trumpeter Brian Lynch, and alto sax player Donald Harrison had all taken the brothers under their wing at one point or another and helped build their careers and nurtured their artistic growth. Zaccai Curtis, the piano-playing brother, introduced the tunes at the club, and with each opportunity made it clear how important these veteran musicians have been to him and bass-playing brother Lugues Curtis.
Thursday night’s songs all sat under the umbrella of Zaccai’s Algorithm Suite, which was commissioned by Chamber Music America, New Jazz Works. Several of the songs were dedicated to and written for the mentors. “Chief” was for Donald Harrison — who is Big Chief of the Congo Nation Afro-New Orleans Cultural Group. “The Professor” was for Brian Lynch — and one could see by the signaling he made throughout the evening that Lynch was making sure the brothers were doing right by the music. “Sensei” was for drummer Ralph Peterson who, Zaccai explained, taught them how to play with a trio.
- Very proud to be part of the faculty at URI
- “Ralph Peterson Leaves us Words of Wisdom”
- Cubop Makes It’s Way To The Stage Of The Hartford Jazz Festival
- NEW RELEASE: The Curtis Brothers’ Algorithm to be Released August 23rd on Truth Revolution Records
- Zaccai Curtis Orkesta (Big Band) Dizzy’s Club Concert NYCJR Review