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Drummer Alvin Queen pays tribute to his former boss with album "Night Train to Copenhagen"

A man plays the drums.
Hreinn Gudlaugsson
CC BY-SA 4.0 via Wikimedia
Drummer Alvin Queen

Mentored by modern jazz icon and drummer Elvin Jones, Alvin Queen went from shining shoes to working with jazz, blues and gospel greats before joining Oscar Peterson's last trio.

Introduced to jazz at an early age by his father's record collection, and to the drums by his brother, Bronx-born Queen started his professional career before he reaching his teens. Jones, playing at the time with John Coltrane's Quartet, was Queen's earliest professional mentor.

From a young age, Queen was shining shoes to keep some money in his pocket. Moving his sidewalk business to New York's Eastside and Manhattan, where the jazz clubs and jam sessions were, allowed him to literally sit at the feet of the great jazz artists of the time: drummer Art Blakey, pianist Thelonious Monk and saxophonist Ben Webster.

Queen went on to work with the Horace Silver Quintet and the George Benson Quartet and toured Europe with trumpeter Charles Tolliver. He played for R&B star vocalist Ruth Brown, and gospel music legends James Cleveland, Shirley Caesar, the Swan Silver Tones, and the Five Blind Boys of Alabama.

Returning from the European tour, Queen relocated to Montreal for two years. After getting back to New York, Queen quickly became disenchanted with the pressure put on jazz musicians to water down their music. “I didn’t want to commercialize my music to become successful,” Queen said in a 2018 interview, “so I returned to Europe in 1977."

Checking in with musicians who had earlier decided to call Europe home – including Kenny Clarke, Johnny Griffin, Art Taylor, Memphis Slim, Champion Jack Dupree, Dexter Gordon, Kenny Drew, and Thad Jones – Queen moved there permanently in 1979.

Oscar Peterson Quartet with NHOP-Ulf Wakenius-Alvin Queen in concert at Montreal Jazz Festival.

Queen replaced British drummer Martin Drew in Oscar Peterson's trio, and remained in that chair until Peterson's death in 2007.

Since then, Queen has continued a successful career as a recording bandleader and collaborator, and run his own record company Nilva. His first nod to his former boss came out in 2018, with the album "O.P.- A Tribute to Oscar Peterson."

Recorded in March of 2021, "Night Train to Copenhagen" features repertoire borrowed from two of Oscar Peterson’s most popular recordings, "Night Train"(1963) and "We Get Requests" (1964). But the tunes are re-imagined through modern arrangements.

Queen chose two young and extraordinary musicians to join him on the album, Sweden’s Calle Brickman on piano and the Danish bassist Tobias Dall.

Listen for "Night Train" and "Bag's Groove" from Alvin Queen's "Night Train to Copenhagen" on KNKX Midday and Evening Jazz programs.

Originally from Detroit, Robin Lloyd has been presenting jazz, blues and Latin jazz on public radio for nearly 40 years. She's a member of the Jazz Education Network and the Jazz Journalists Association.