Ralph Peterson Trio

Triangular III
(Onyx/Truth Revolution Records)

Tucked inside this effervescent 2015 live date is a miniature tribute to the great, unsung pianist and composer Walter Davis Jr. He served as an early mentor to powerhouse drummer Ralph Peterson, who steers this third edition of his Triangular group. This time, the trio showcases the burgeoning talents of siblings—bassist Luques Curtis and pianist Zaccai Curtis.

The disc kicks off with a barreling reading of Davis’ “Uranus,” a delightful hard-bop number with transient bossa nova turnabouts, written for Art Blakey and the Jazz Messengers. Zaccai approaches the twisting and tumbling melody with gusto, while Luques and Peterson propel the momentum with swinging aplomb. Several tunes later, the trio launches into a capricious reading of Davis’ “Backgammon”—another tune written for Blakey and the Messengers—and Luques initiates the fantastic romp through “400 Years Ago Tomorrow,” the final Davis composition, which is greatly animated by Zaccai’s spry reading of the Afro-Latin melody and Peterson’s tussling yet never intrusive rhythmic interjections.

Peterson, who generously uses his ensembles as launching pads for younger musicians to share their compositional gifts, contributes two originals—a revisit of “The Art Of War,” a steamrolling excursion that shows Zaccai keeping his footing atop of Peterson’s quaking, hyper-interactive rhythms, and the intricate burner “Blues For Cooch,” another characteristically tussling engagement that demands sniper-like alertness.

(Note: A version of this review appears in the July 2016 issue of DownBeat. Due to a production error, the review was printed without a star rating. The rating was 4 stars, as seen here.)