Experience Counts

Hugh Petersen Quartet (Independent)

By Tim Roberts

Jazz percussion mainstay and educator Hugh Petersen is one of the most experienced musicians in Louisville. He's played with dozens of jazz luminaries, most notably bassist Jaco Pastorious, and literally all over the world. Plus there probably isn't an instrument he can't play, from the simplest pair of bongos to the most obscure flute carved from the branch of a tree that grows only in a small corner of Sri Lanka. If you can pound it or push wind through it, Hugh can play it or, better yet, teach you how to play it.

Yet the music on the recording by the Hugh Petersen Quartet doesn't contain the exotic stuff a well-traveled musician might incorporate into his work. It is mostly straight-ahead jazz, simple and straight with a few experimental moments for flavor.

Recorded in New York City in late 1998, the recording features Petersen on drums, Archie Shepp on tenor and soprano saxophones, Francisco Mondragon Rio on guitar, and Fred Williams on bass. Each of these veteran performers brings skills that are highlighted throughout the disk: Shepp's sax is forlorn and fooshy (i.e., lots of moist air underneath the sound), Rio's guitar playing is tight and exact, Williams anchors each track with solid bass lines, and Petersen's drumming is laser-accurate.

The quartet provides a variety of styles on the recording. There's a driving waltz in the opening track "San Francisco," a soul-ballad called "Lillian," a touch of progressive rock and fusion in "Opus Octave/Minus," and there's a tender, sunny samba in "The Light," which features the vocals of Karen Adler.

A major problem throughout the entire recording is a lack of balance between the two lead instruments. Rio's guitar and Shepp's saxes always seem to be fighting hard for attention. It is a purely technical flaw that distracts from the doubtlessly talented contributions each musician made on the recording.

Distracting technical problems aside, the members of the Hugh Petersen Quartet play with verve and intent. Experienced musicians should never play otherwise.