Monday, April 5, 2010

Ralph Alessi

Ralph Alessi (trumpet)
This Against That (RKM Music)

Classically trained, Ralph Alessi is a fixture in the New York free jazz scene. He has worked with Jason Moran (pianist), Uri Caine (pianist), Charlie Haden (bass) and Ravi Coltrane (sax) to name a few. The most striking thing about Alessi that sets him apart may be his adventurous compositions. He has an ability to his style of the avant garde feel effortless and easily accessible through what are some interesting and yet still complex arrangements. With just five albums under his belt and a number of outings as a session member, Alessi is establishing himself as an in-demand trumpet. His material may be similar in vein to Dave Douglas but where Douglas tends to morph into whatever concept he is experimenting with, Ralph Alessi builds and creates new frontiers with dazzling results.

His second album, This Against That (RKM Music; 2002) (also what would become the name of his current quintet) really captures his classical training and free jazz aesthetics perfectly. From the intricate yet brief opening march of "Oversoul" and its companion piece "Haw Hee" through the lovely ballads of "Elaine" and "Expectations". My favourite track, "Telepathic Voyeur" is an awesome venture of modal blues and with some subtle touches of free bop. Alessi's playing is definitely fresh and highly inventive.

He has also circled himself with such luminaries as Don Byron (clarinet), David Gilmore (guitar), Drew Gress (bass) and Nasheet Waits (drums), all of whom feature prominently throughout the recording. This Against That is really fantastic stuff. It's a pretty easy record to find as well. Well worth checking out if you're looking for something new and very creative.

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