The Jazzcat

Ralph Penland at the Los Angeles County Museum of Art

by on Sep.12, 2004, under News


Additional Photos


Ralph Penland creator and leader of the Penland Polygon

Quintet takes charge not only of Master of Ceremonies duties, but also is the

rhythmic foundation of Polygon Quintet. The Polygon Quintet is analogous to a

many sided figure conveyed from many different angles. This is how Ralph and

his band approach the many sounds and elements of the music. Ten people may

witness a particular event and give ten different accounts as to what they saw.

This is a very common aspect of the human being because the essence of the

encounter is personal perception. When music is expressed freely and approached

from this multi-dimensional perspective, it allows the musicians to open up and

delve outside the normal realms of possibility to find new and exciting

elements to add to the music. This also allows the audience to enjoy all the

aspects of the music and experience some interesting and unique qualities that

may not have been possible otherwise. The concept, I believe, is how I think all

music should be approached.


Ralph is calm and poised as he sits back and lets the cats

play. There is no need to dominate because the sound is a collective effort. As

part of the front line, the muted reminiscence of Dewey Davis fills the air as

trumpet player Charles Moore blows his horn, a very beautiful tone. Also out

front is Gerald Pinter on Tenor and various woodwind instruments. When the two

blow together in synchronicity, the fused tones almost sounds like another

instrument. John B. Williams picks it up on “Seven Steps to Heaven” and I must

say, it sounds and looks like he is having the best of times. When he is diggin’,

you get your whole body immersed in the music and it is such a joyous feeling.

The Polygon Quintet does not hold back when it comes to expression. Tateng

Katendig is a new and wonderful voice on the piano. I have seen him perform at

Charlie O’s for the jam sessions there and he is an extremely talented

individual. I am sure that you will be seeing and hearing a lot more from him!


The creativity of musicians is always inspired by someone or

some thing. In the case of Ralph, Elvin Jones and Tony Williams were big

influences. As many of you know, Tony has been gone for quite some time and

just recently we lost Elvin, who has always been a dynamic force in the

business. Ralph has great admiration for both of these players and he did a

tribute for Elvin. He had the opportunity to see Elvin recently and was called

up on stage to play. You can imagine being so close in mind and spirit to your inspiration

and having a personal invitation to play his drums. The emotion reverberates down

to the very core of your musical being, truly a reference point in any musician’s

life. After sharing this with the audience, Ralph proceeded to do the same drum

solo he did for El, a wonderful intro to Dave Brubeck’s “Take Five”.


“The Scene” was a tune that Cannonball Adderley and his

compadre Joe Zawinul used to close every set with and the Polygon Quintet gave

it cool justice! Special guest Sherry Williams sat in and contributed with her

wonderful vocalese and pure tones on “Summertime” and other familiar standards.

She was just one of the many splendid sides of the musical polygon.


Check out Ralph’s latest disc on Polygon Records called “ A

Journey to Dream”.

LeRoy Downs


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