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Ralph Lalama: Steppin' Out, Steppin' Forward

By Published: April 13, 2010

"I can't complain. I'm trying to do more now as a leader. I was always pretty much a sideman, which I dug. I learned a lot. I learned business-wise and I learned a lot musically, everything, persistence. But now I'm trying to do a little more as a leader. That's what I feel like doing, right now. No other reason—I just kind of do what I feel, where my brain and my heart takes me. ... I can't complain about New York. I love New York."

Ralph Lalama

He adds, "Things change in New York. That's one thing about it—things change. It's different now than it was 10 years ago, let alone 20 years ago, let alone 30 years ago. I kind of like that, though. It's just my personality. I like change. But sometimes, when you get older I'm starting to notice things change, but not for the good. Sometimes I feel more uptight and strain than I used to feel at 30. And I don't mean me. I mean the world. Even in the music—like I was saying before, they write these tunes that are ridiculous. It's not that I can't play them. I don't want to play them. They make me uptight." With a laugh, he proclaims, "Relax. You know?"

"But some things are even better. The way of communication is great. You can e- mail Europe without paying a dime. I remember you'd have to play $20 to talk to somebody in Europe to get a gig. Now you e-mail. That's great."

Part of Lalama's plan is to write more and keep working on improvising. "I'm going to write for me. In the last 10 years, I've been really concentrating on improvising. I do write. I have CDs out and I have tunes on there and I write. But I think I'm going to add more to it. I've been improvising, studying music and finding different things about it. It tickles my fancy to write some different things, too. That's part of being a leader, too. You should move on. You should move forward. I just want to move forward."

He pauses a second to reflect. "But still keep the folk song, which is the blues. Not that I have to play the blues every second. I don't mean that. I don't mean soul licks, but the folk song—because jazz has a folk song. That's my opinion and what I live by, basically."

A good thing to live by. So, cent' anni.

Selected Discography

Ralph Lalama, The Audience (Mighty Quinn Productions, 2010)
Ralph Lalama, Energy Fields (Mighty Quinn Productions, 2008)
Vanguard Jazz Orchestra, Monday Night Live at the Village Vanguard (Planet Arts, 2008)
Vanguard Jazz Orchestra, Up From the Skies (Planet Arts, 2006)
Nicole Pasternak, In a Word (Garagista Music, 2003)
Vanguard Jazz Orchestra, Can I Persuade You? (Planet Arts, 2002)
Joe Lovano, 52nd Street Themes (Blue Note, 2000)
Ralph Lalama, Music For Grown- Ups (Criss Cross, 1999)
Ralph Lalama, Circle Line (Criss Cross, 1997)
Carnegie Hall Jazz Band, The Carnegie Hall Jazz Band (Blue Note, 1996)
Ralph Lalama, You Know What I Mean (Criss Cross, 1995)
Ralph Lalama, Momentum (Criss Cross, 1991)
Danny D'Imperio, Blues for Philly Joe (VSOP, 1991)
Ralph Lalama, Feelin' and Dealin' (Criss Cross, 1990)

Photo Credits

Page 1: Mia Song, Courtesy of The Star-Ledger

Pages 2, 5: Eddy Westveer

Page 3: Hans Speekenbrink

Page 4: Jonathan Slone, Courtesy of Ralph Lalama

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