By Larry Adelman
Joseph M. Peterson is a well-known jazz bassist with many musical accomplishments to his name. You wouldn’t know it, but he started out playing heavy metal before he immersed himself in the music which is now his passion. Lucky for our local jazz lovers, Joe will be bringing his eclecticism to the Chubby Pickle with the “Peterson/Weeks Quintet” on Saturday evening, May 20.
At the age of 17, Joe was a rock bassist in a heavy metal band. He used to listen to Seton Hall’s “Pirate Radio,” metal at its loudest until he was exposed to WBGO 88.3 FM Jazz Radio and became intrigued by jazz’s musical nuances. Shortly afterward, he heard Charles Mingus’ classic album “Let My Children Hear Music,” and the switch from loud electric bass to stand up double bass was on! Other early influences included George Benson and Take 5 by Dave Brubeck, and before Joe knew it, he made a move from heavy metal to jazz. Or – from “Metal to Mingus!”
Joe’s undergraduate work at Monmouth University in the 1990’s included classes taught by Bob Santelli, co-founder of the Jersey Shore Jazz and Blues Foundation. Bob influenced Joe to join the JSJBF, and he performed in multiple Riverfests with different bands as a result. Joe was embraced by many well-regarded jazz historians as he honed his craft. While working on his master’s degree at Rutgers in 2000, he worked with Annie Kuebbler, Rutgers-Newark’s jazz archivist, who helped organize Duke Ellington’s catalog for the Smithsonian Institute. Other influences included Vincent Pelote (head librarian at the Institute of Jazz Studies, and known to be an expert on Wes Montgomery’s music), Ed Berger (alto sax player and Benny Carter’s manager), Dan Morgenstern (editor of Downbeat Magazine for over 20 years, and later on the director of jazz studies at Rutgers), and Tad Hershorn (author and photographer, known for his album cover photo on Ella Fitzgerald and Joe Pass’ “Easy Living”).
Joe is a performing artist and publisher with BMI. He has worked professionally as a leader and accompanist with various ensembles all over the Tri-State area, performing and recording with a great number of independent musicians across several genres. He played and recorded a live album with “Deftet” (another one of Joe’s jazz ensembles) at “Cecil’s” in West Orange, owned by famed jazz drummer Cecil Brooks. Joe has also played various North Jersey jazz clubs. Most recently, he was at “Shanghai” in Madison, performing with singer Audra Mariel, accompanied by “A Real Human Jazz Band.” Joe has also played at “Trumpets” in Montclair, and also performed in support of Tamara Williams at the NJPAC. Finally, Joe has substituted in Broadway pit orchestras for musicals including “Avenue Q” and “Memphis.”
Joe was Producer and Host of over 25 episodes of “Jazz From the Archives” on WBGO Jazz 88.3 FM, and reference assistant at the Institute of Jazz Studies at Rutgers University for more than a decade. His contributions have been acknowledged by several reputable authors in prominent music history texts for his aid in gathering reputable sources. Joe has also earned recognition as an outstanding music educator for students of all ages.
This vast resume illustrates Joe’s significant musical pedigree as he brings the “Peterson/Weeks Quintet” to the Chubby Pickle. “The group is composed of some of the best musicians from my musical past as well as the present,” explained Joe in our conversation about this particular ensemble. “I figured, what better way to see what the future holds than combining all these passionate musicians together.”
Those passionate musicians are drummer and JSJBF member Dan Weeks, pianist Steve Myerson, trumpet and flugelhorn player Steve Jankowski and Greg Grispart on tenor sax and clarinet. The “Peterson/Weeks Quintet” performs the music of jazz drummer Art Blakey, tenor saxophonist Hank Mobley, tenor saxophonist Wayne Shorter and trumpet player Roy Hargrove (both of whom are no longer with us). Jazz enthusiasts, come out and enjoy these guys!