A lifelong Minnesotan whose sound has always focused on a characteristically "Minneapolis" sound, Ricky Peterson is best known for his now 13 year association with saxophone legend David Sanborn and for having written with or played keyboards for Prince on and off since The Artist's early days on the Twin Cities scene (producing and arranging the song "The Most Beautiful Girl in the World"). Most recently, he ensembled with Sanborn on Songs from the Night Before and Prince on Emancipation, and also played a big part on George Benson's recent That's Right. This is just the icing on a career whose associations either live or in the studio read like a diverse pop and jazz trivia encyclopedia: Bonnie Raitt, Anita Baker, Mavis Staples, Joe Sample, Sergio Mendes, Morris Day, Phil Upchurch, Fine Young Cannibals, Steve Miller Band, GoGos, Paul Abdul, Boz Scaggs, The Jets, Jermaine Jackson, Rhythm Syndicate, Chaka Khan, Robben Ford, Howard Hewett, Larry Graham, and Windham Hill labelmates Tuck and Patti.
Recording and touring over the years alongside everyone from Prince and David Sanborn to Bonnie Raitt and George Benson, Ricky Peterson learned more than a few things about what it takes to step into the spotlight and be a successful solo artist. First introduced to Windham Hill Jazz fans with single song contributions to popular television shows as well as the Midnight Groove sampler in 1998, the keyboardist makes his full-fledged Windham Hill label debut with the sometimes explosive, often laid back but always melodic and grooving Souvenir. While Peterson's tunes on those compilations displayed the gentler, more reflective side of his artistry, he adds to that palette on the new album with hard-hitting, edgy tunes that recall his upbringing as a fan of R&B/funk, progressive rock, jazz and blues.
"I pride myself on sophistication and musicality in everything, and I'm most challenged by intricate chord changes even on the simplest tune," he adds. "I also work on arrangements so that unexpected segments are a given. It's fun starting out in one place, then taking the song in a new and exciting direction. To me, maintaining the passion for music and expressing my emotions as honestly as possible is what it's all about."
Having amassed one of contemporary music's most star-studded resumes, Peterson always carefully picks and chooses the colleagues he feels are most appropriate to the spirit of the project. Along with family members Paul Peterson (bass, guitar) and Billy Peterson (bass), the Minneapolis based keyboardist ensembles on Souvenir with an exciting cross section of his favorite Los Angeles and New York based jazz/R&B friends-guitarists Robben Ford, Paul Jackson, Jr. and Hiram Bullock, bassist Will Lee, saxmen Dick Oatts, Brandon Fields and David Sanborn, and drummer Vinnie Colaiuta. Smoky voiced R&B diva Lalah Hathaway does a duet with Ricky on the soaring vocal urban ballad "All I Ask."
Friend and colleague Ben Sidran put it best when he said of Peterson: "There are two kinds of genius, the kind that is, as the saying goes, 90 percent perspiration, 10 percent inspiration, and the other kind. Ricky Peterson is clearly the other kind, a born singer with a great range, a gifted keyboard player with his own sense of style and literally, a musical force of nature. It's all music to him. He's not a rock player trying to learn jazz or a jazz player trying to do rock...He's able to go into the memory bank and constantly come up with new sounds."
No matter who he plays with, Peterson brings elements of his trademark sensibilities to each and every project he contributes to. As he says, "Whether I'm working with Prince or George Benson, I bring everything I am to the studio and give them my all. I approach everything in a unique way, from compositions to arrangements, and my harmonization skills are very adaptable. Just as in my own music on Souvenir, I bring a lot of diverse elements to the party."
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