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Considering his musical upbringing, it seems only natural that Ronnie Peterson's seven-day tour of Israel will feature a program of songs by seminal late Sixties rock group Cream.
"Cream was the first band to play extended jams," Peterson says. "They did it before the Grateful Dead, the Allman Brothers and all those guys. Ray and I grew up with their music." The "Ray" in question is Peterson's bass-playing sibling, who will join him for the tour. This will be the first time the brothers have joined forces in Israel.
Over the past decade, Peterson has firmly established himself as Israel's Mr. Blues. He has brought over an impressive roster of visiting artists - including Hiram Bullock, Eddie King and larger-than-life singer Candy Kane - and put out three CDs. He's now exploring his rock roots but will retain plenty of blues licks on the upcoming tour.
"I actually got the idea from [American rock guitarist and singer] Leslie West," Peterson explains. "He did a long, three-month tribute to Cream, and I thought that might be a good idea."
But there are some remedial motives behind the current project too.
"After seeing the wretched debacle that was the Cream reunion at the Royal Albert Hall [in London] last year, I thought I should do something of my own. For me that reunion wasn't even Cream," he says. "There was no free-form improvisation, and no extended jamming. They were the first band to take the rock-and-roll format and stretch it out."
Peterson also has a relatively controversial take on Eric Clapton, who earned fans' adoration during his tenure as Cream's guitarist. Peterson thinks Clapton-worship is unjustified. "The whole harmonic and rhythmic exploration thing with Cream was [the work of other band members]," he says. "That made Eric sound so good."
Peterson wants to keep his music, and the impending Cream tour, straight and simple.
"As it happens, I'm a blues-rocker, that's what I do," he says. "I have a little more harmonic knowledge than Eric [Clapton], but I want to avoid playing fusion and clever scales and that sort of stuff. You want to keep the freedom and simplicity."
Peterson is quick to point out that the decision to cut out the fancy stuff was not made due to lack of instrumental ability.
"My brother Ray was [legendary fusion bassist] Jaco Pastorius' prot g . Ray also worked with [jazz-rock super group] Blood, Sweat and Tears and the legendary sax player Eddie Harris," he says. "Ray can rip jazz if he wants to, but we grew up with Cream's music and, as brothers, we open our mouths and immediately have all the vocal harmonies that Cream did; Ray's an excellent lead singer. We know all the material, and we have that sibling telepathy. I reckon it's going to be great, and fun."
Like Cream, the Petersons have opted for a guitar-guitar-drums format, with Asher Fedi pounding the skins. Cream fans should revel in the trio's renditions of such hits as "Crossroads," "Sunshine of Your Love" and "White Room," plus some of the British super group's more obscure numbers.
The Cream tribute tour kicks off at Moshav Omer on May 18 at 9:30 p.m. Other performances will take place at Kibbutz Net Keshet on May 19 at 9:30 p.m.; Kibbutz Lehavot-Haviva on May 20 at 9 p.m.; the Zappa Club in Tel Aviv on May 24 at 9 p.m.; Jerusalem's Ma'abada on May 25 at 9 p.m.; Hemdat Yamim on May 26 at 9 p.m.; and the Barby Club in Tel Aviv on May 27 at 10 p.m. Details at www.ronniepeterson.com.