Ralph Alessi and This Against That: Wiry Strong (2011)
One of his ongoing projects, This Against That, is a like-minded affair with fellow M- Base graduates Ravi Coltrane and Andy Milne. These birds of a feather have collaborated on each others' projects for the last decade and share a self- effacing approach to music making.
Like Cognitive Dissonance (Cam Jazz, 2010) Alessi employs Milne and bassist Drew Gress, but adds Coltrane and drummer Mark Ferber. Wiry Strong is composed of 15 tracks, four of which are short group improvisations built to complement the remaining Alessi-penned works. Like the improvisational sketches, the music is quite attentive to atmosphere. Alessi paints modest scenes in which the players interact, usually in pairs. The trumpet and bass first trade lines on "A Dollar In Your Shoe," then saxophone and piano, while Ferber energizes the mood. On "20% of the 80%" the piano and bass are in lockstep, while the title track has a bit of trumpet and drum gymnastics. Alessi eschews the theme-solo-theme mode for this varied palate of tones and attitudes. Coltrane is a perfect collaborator for this presentation, tailoring his sound to the mood at hand. Each piece is quite inconspicuous, revealing itself not as blatant theater, but as fine-drawn and discerning storytelling.
Track Listing: Clown Painting; Station Wagon Trip; Pudgy; Medieval Genius; Halves and Wholes; Racy Banter; A Dollar In Your Shoe; Humdrum; 20% of the 80%; Sock Pupperter; Ira; Celebrity Golf Classic; Cobbs Hill; Bizarro-World Moment; Wiry Strong.
Personnel: Ralph Alessi: trumpet; Ravi Coltrane: saxophone; Andy Milne: piano; Drew Gress: bass; Mark Ferber: drums.
Record Label: Clean Feed Records
Style: Modern Jazz