Former Band Members Pay Homage to Art Blakey, Kick Off 2013-14 Signature Music Series on October 10

By
Liz Lupton
September 26, 2013
The Messenger Legacy takes the stage on October 10.
Photo courtesy Ralph Peterson

The 2013-2014 Signature Music Series at Berklee begins on October 10 with a reunion of former members from one of the most influential jazz bands, Art Blakey’s Jazz Messengers. Now dubbed the Messenger Legacy, this elite group of musicians will pay tribute to Blakey’s prolific career. The Messenger Legacy features drummer, bandleader, and Berklee professor Ralph Peterson; master bassist Reggie Workman; alto saxophonist Donald Harrison ’81; trumpeter Brian Lynch; tenor man and Berklee Woodwinds chair Billy Pierce ’73; and pianist Donald Brown.

Audiences can expect to hear some of Blakey’s most standout tunes brought to life, including “Moanin,” “One By One,” and “Along Came Betty” on Thursday, October 10 at 8:15 p.m. at the Berklee Performance Center, 136 Massachusetts Avenue, Boston. An 18-piece student group, the Berklee Art Blakey Big Band, will open the show. Purchase tickets at berkleebpc.com, by calling 617 747-2261, or at the Berklee Performance Center Box Office. Visit berkleebpc.com for a full list of events. The venue is wheelchair accessible.

Drummer Ralph Peterson, the Messenger Legacy’s bandleader, was chosen to play alongside Blakey as a Messenger in the 1983 version of the Jazz Messenger band, a two-drummer big band, where he learned firsthand from the master himself. Peterson remained the second drummer in the Big Band until Blakey’s passing in 1990.

The Messenger Legacy wishes to preserve, protect, and honor the legacy of a man who was much more then a bandleader to all of them. This group has the potential of launching renewed appreciation for one of the most important institutions of apprenticeship in American music history. Said Peterson about forming the group, “Every time I play the drums it is in tribute to Art, but I wanted to do something that goes beyond me, beyond any individual. I wanted to pay tribute in a way that was authentic, genuine, and meaningful not just to a few, but to every person he touched through his music. Having multiple generations of Messengers represented in this band, this is the closest you can get to the source. This is the real deal.”

 

Ralph Peterson and Bill Pierce talk about their roles in Blakey's Messengers.

 

Reggie Workman began working with the Messengers in 1962 and was a member of the band during what could easily be called its most innovative period. Fifty years later, Workman continues his journey, producing, conducting music education workshops, and touring regularly in the U.S. and internationally. Billy Pierce was a Messengers mainstay from the late '70s through the early to mid- '80s. Donald Brown played with the Jazz Messengers from 1981-1982 and officially joined the Messengers around 1983, and, in 1988, Brian Lynch joined what turned out to be the last edition of the Messengers.

The Signature Music Series at Berklee embraces the college’s global community and Boston’s diverse musical tastes. Upcoming shows include Alejandro Sanz Meets Berklee, during which Sanz will be presented with an honorary degree to the college (November 6), the Berklee Singers Showcase 30th Anniversary Concert (December 5), and Guinga Meets Berklee (December 12).

 

Liz Lupton is a publicist in the Office of Media Relations. Media inquiries: llupton@berklee.edu.