Raise up off Me
Over decades, “Triangular” became a notable trio subtheme in the discography of drummer Ralph Peterson. It started with 1989’s Triangular, featuring pianist Geri Allen and bassist Phil Bowler. It resurfaced in 2000 with pianist David Kikoski and bassist Gerald Cannon on the bracing Triangular II. It was not lost, therefore, on brothers Zaccai Curtis (piano/keyboard) and Luques Curtis (bass) when they made the lofty “Triangular” ranks on the live album Triangular III in 2016. Peterson and the Curtises mix it up once again on the former’s final album, Raise Up Off Me, a testament to the influential firebrand and esteemed educator who fell to cancer at 58.
Released the day after Peterson would have turned 59, Raise Up Off Me documents a group rapport that is surging yet subtle, full of interactive motion. Vocalist Jazzmeia Horn joins on three songs, including her original “Please Do Something” and Peterson’s “Tears I Can Not Hide,” a deep cut from the drummer’s 2002 release, Subliminal Seduction, for which Horn wrote new lyrics. Percussionist Eguie Castrillo sits in as well on Peterson’s elegant but stormy Afro-Latin original “Blue Hughes.”
Peterson borrows the title Raise Up Off Me from pianist Hampton Hawes’ 1974 memoir of the same name, and he couches it expressly in terms of Black Lives Matter: “For my life to matter, you have to raise up off me,” he said in a promo statement. Fittingly, it’s his own compositional voice in the spotlight as he leads off with the title track (and the subsequent “Raise Up Off Me Too!”), adding auxiliary percussion to fill the soundscape. There’s an affecting Zaccai Curtis ballad (“I Want to Be There for You”) and a subtheme of tributes to Black pianists: Bud Powell’s “Bouncing With Bud,” the fierce modern blues “Four Play” by the late James Williams, the blistering and complex “Shorties Portion” by Patrice Rushen and, most strikingly, “Naima’s Love Song” by the late John Hicks, in an energized reading with Horn on vocals and Peterson himself on trumpet, which he played with great proficiency.