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Ralph Alessi & This Against That: Look

Mark F. Turner By

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Like the angelic blast of Gabriel's horn, trumpeter Ralph Alessi plays his mortal trumpet with exhilaration and sublime finesse. A popular session player, he has heightened recordings like Scott Colley's Archtiect of the Silent Moment (CamJazz, 2007) and Simone Guiducci's Dancin' Roots (Felmay, 2005).

Alessi's own recordings as a leader—including Vice & Virtue (RKM, 2003) and This Against That/Vice & Virtue (RKM, 2002) —are obscure gems of eclectic music; but Look is an outstanding work of intellect and fire, showing what a progressive trumpeter sounds like without gimmicks or effects. A man, his horn, and a band—complete in its creative element.

Alessi's quartet of leading players includes the unsung, talented pianist Andy Milne and the superb rhythm section of bassist Drew Gress and drummer Mark Ferber; plus, on four tracks, a special guest: saxophonist Ravi Coltrane. The group is excellent at executing Alessi's eclectic and original pieces and making them enjoyable and seductively challenging.

The leader's strength as a trumpeter is obvious, but another attribute that surfaces is his ability as a composer, which includes a gift for tying disparate threads of jazz, avant-garde, and classical persuasions into a vibrant work of contemporary music. Some tunes are ostensibly simplistic yet harmonically complex, like "Near Cry, where Alessi solos hotly over a tricky vamp. Other times there's a repeating phrase, as on "At the Seams, where Gress and Ferber not only sustain the effervescence but also contribute their own voices.

Alessi's classical background is an asset to the music, adding interesting perspectives on pieces like "Hands, where Milne's piano provides an elegant atmosphere. The music also traverses the unfamiliar on "The Tooth Fairy and Pistol Pete as the band explores a dream-like motif.

Coltrane's saxophone may only appear on four compositions, but his presence is memorable, whether sharing rich harmonies with Alessi's trumpet on "It's Just a Toy, delivering a wonderful solo on "Platform Velvet, or playing the charismatic intro on "Old Beady Eyes.

The title sums it up. Look is an exceptional work by one today's top trumpet players.

Track Listing: Near Cry; It's Just a Toy; At the Seams; Hands; The Tooth Fairy and Pistol Pete; Lap Nap; Brown Hat; Look; Words, Actions; Platform Velvet; Old Beady Eyes; Sir.

Personnel: Ralph Alessi: trumpet, flugelhorn; Andy Milne: piano; Drew Gress: bass; Mark Ferber: drums; Ravi Coltrane: tenor saxophone (2,8,10,11).

Title: Look | Year Released: 2007 | Record Label: Between the Lines


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