Drummer-led piano trio dates are uncommon entries within the jazz discography, differing from sessions under the leadership of pianists and bassists. Unshackled from the restrictive role of sideman, the drummer-leader is more apt to utilize the full dynamic range of his instrument, becoming more of a creative voice and less a metronomic timekeeper. Master drummer Ralph Peterson excels in the rarefied atmosphere of his own trio on Triangular III. He powers a group completed by pianist zaccai Curtis and bassist Luques Curtis with polyrhythmic intensity, invigorating their spirited playing throughout this live set recorded at New Haven’s Firehouse 12.
Opener “Uranus”, the first of three compositions by pianist Walter Davis, Jr., is a joyous romp showcasing the alternately fluid and percussive piano of zaccai Curtis. A selection from the Jazz Messenger repertory, it features a climactic Peterson solo where he exhibits his command of the Art Blakey rhythmic vocabulary. Following a funky drum set-up, Sam Rivers’ “Beatrice” swings straightahead, then shifts gears into an AfroCuban mode, which includes a lyrical bass solo. Bass introduces the Latin-ized arrangement of Joe Henderson’s “Inner Urge” with a montuno midsection and fiery drum finish. Davis’ “Backgammon”, another Messenger anthem, is a powerful Peterson workout with swinging solos from the brothers Curtis. The pianist’s “Manifest Destiny” is a powerfully dramatic work, which clearly exhibits his original voice as composer.
Peterson’s tasteful brushwork is on display throughout Hoagy Carmichael’s “Skylark” while on Davis’ “400 Years Ago Tomorrow” piano and bass share the spotlight with no-holds-barred drumming, as they also do on “The Art Of War”, a tour de force Peterson original on which the three play with driving strength. zaccai Curtis original “Moments” is an impressionistic work of beauty, offering a respite before the band closes with Peterson’s swinging “Blues For Chooch”.