The Art of War (feat. Jeremy Pelt, Jimmy Greene, Orrin Evans & Eric Revis)

The Art of War (feat. Jeremy Pelt, Jimmy Greene, Orrin Evans & Eric Revis)

Mentored by Art Blakey, drummer Ralph Peterson blazed a trail in the ’80s and early ’90s and remained influential up until his untimely death in 2021 at age 58. Much like Blakey, he became a father figure to younger players, the quintet from The Art of War being a prime example: trumpeter Jeremy Pelt, saxophonist Jimmy Greene, pianist Orrin Evans, and bassist Eric Revis are just a few who came through the proving ground of a Peterson-led band and grew into major musical personalities themselves. This intact lineup went on to make Subliminal Seduction and Tests of Time. Along with The Art of War, these albums not only capture Peterson’s galvanizing, unstoppable drumming but also the zeitgeist of mainstream acoustic jazz at the turn of the millennium. As a title, The Art of War speaks to how Peterson played the long game, conquering addiction, and not only fulfilling his own potential but identifying and harnessing it in others. The influence of the ’60s Miles Davis Quintet is still felt in terms of harmonic sophistication and unrelenting swing, qualities also present in Wynton Marsalis’ mid-’80s quintet. Peterson, too, had a role in the proud revival of that sound on his own Blue Note albums of the period, including Volition and V. He and Marsalis’ drummer, Jeff “Tain” Watts, were the twin architects of the swaggering, elastic swing feel at the heart of what became known as the Young Lions movement. It was an inheritance from Art Blakey, Elvin Jones, Tony Williams, and others, brought to a boil and infused with Latin, funk, and other rhythmic traditions. It’s strongly present on The Art of War, in complex and modern-minded pieces like “Monief” and the title track. But there’s also lyrical sensitivity on “All My Tomorrows” and “Portrait of Jenny,” the latter harking back to Blakey’s practice of featuring trumpeters on intimate ballads. Pelt also brings in the compositions “Inner Sanctum” and “Apocalypse,” while Evans weighs in with the closing “Big Jimmy.”

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