Modern Drummer Interview
The Ralph Peterson Trio
It has been said that good things come in threes. Such is the case with Ralph Peterson and his new album “TriAngular III.” Peterson will treat fans to live performances of some of the album’s compositions when performs on April 10 at the Ethical Society (1906 South Rittenhouse Square, 215-735-3456.
With the new album, Peterson returns to the trio format for only the third time in 30 years. Secondly, the album is the third installment in Peterson’s “Live at Firehouse 12” series.
Most importantly, the album is a celebration of Peterson’s victory in hs battle against colorectal cancer.
Peterson, a drummer and composer, released “TriAngular III” on April 8 via Peterson’s own Onyx Music label and Truth Revolution Records. On this disc, he is joined by brothers Zaccai and Luques Curtis on piano and bass, adding a new incarnation to the prestigious TriAngular lineage.
Recorded live at New Haven’s Firehouse 12, “TriAngular III” provides not only a showcase for Peterson’s boundless energy and imagination, but also a testament to the healing power of music. The album was recorded, mixed and mastered as Peterson was being diagnosed and treated for colorectal cancer, becoming a sterling symbol of his successful battle against the disease.
“I was diagnosed with colorectal cancer on November 5 last year,” said Peterson, during a phone interview Wednesday afternoon from Peabody Conservatory in Baltimore where he is an artist-in-residence. “I was bleeding so much that I was in the ICU for two days before they could even do a biopsy. I had three trips to the hospital, surgery and five-and-a-half weeks of radiation and chemotherapy.
‘The album was recorded live on October 30 at Firehouse 12. We did two sets. The first tune on the album is actually the last tune of the night and the last tune on the record is the last tune of the first set. Since they turned the house, we were able to play the same set at both shows.
“After my stay in the hospital, I wasn’t going to let it get to me. I wasn’t going to stay at home and feel sorry for myself. I mixed and mastered the album all while I was dealing with this life-altering condition. Now, I’m on the other side.”
Putting the album on hold was not an option according to Peterson who said, “Early on I thought that if this is my time, I’ve got to get this music finished and out because I’m real comfortable with this being my swan song. If it’s not, I still wanted to get it out because I’m really excited about this music that we put together.”
Peterson, who just celebrated a landmark 20 years drink and drug free, was excited to be performing with a trio format again. The album is a fitting successor to its two predecessors — 1988’s “Triangular” with Geri Allen and Essiet Essiet, and 2000’s “Triangular 2” with David Kikoski and Gerald Cannon.
“I love the trio format,” said Peterson, who is a professor at Berklee College of Music in Boston. “I think it’s one of the purest vehicles for expressing jazz. I love piano music. My father loved piano music. He met my mother when he was playing piano.
“I met Luques Curtis when he was a student at Berklee. I had a student ensemble and needed a bass player. He came to a rehearsal and he was great. I told him — you’re at a level way above this ensemble. He said — I want to do it because I just want to play with you. His attitude really impressed me.
“Later, he said — you’ve got to meet my brother Zaccai. When I heard Zaccai, I was really impressed with his playing. ‘The Duality Perspective’ album, which I recorded in 2012, featured Luques and Zaccai. We’ve been playing together for 12 years. I’m like a mentor. My decision to do a trio album with them happened a long time ago.”