January/February 1997

Ralph Peterson Fo'tet
The Reclamation Project
Evidence Music

hmmm...who/what's being reclaimed here? Is it Peterson's recording career, his assertion of self-control over that career, claiming his place in the pantheon of 30-something jazz musicians, the Fo'Tet...or what? Whatever the case may be, and we suspect it's a combination of those elements, Ralph Peterson was born to be a bandleader and his keen sense of confidence and self-assuredness is much in evidence here on this, his first release in three years.

Peterson is a born bandleader for one of several reasons, not the least of which is the fact that his percussive force simply does not lend itself well to sideman status. He needs to be unleashed, out front of a band, cooking the proceedings in his own sweet way and the Fo'Tet has always been his best showcase. Vibist Bryan Carrott (and why hasn't anyone recorded this guy as a leader?) is the key to the sound of this ensemble. His four-mallet and marimba work provide the sonic undertone and prove to be the most adept solo voice in the band. All of the material is from the pen of the leader, and writing for this instrumentation is a challenging task that he's well up to.

"Insanity" is an aptly edgy bit of business, with Wilson on soprano, that Belden's bass brings back home.

One thing about Ralph Peterson is that he has never been shy about walking musical tightropes, and despite the raw, naked arrogance and pomposity of his approach to the drum kit, he is always worth a listen. - Willard Jenkins

Originally published in January/February 1997
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